Review: 'Ice Age: Continental Drift' is More Fun But Still Forgettable
by Jeremy Kirk
July 13, 2012
The Ice Age films come and go with little fanfare, and it's no surprise. When you get down to it, they're all enjoyable, they all make you laugh in the right parts, and Scrat, that prehistoric squirrel who can't seem to capture his nut, is the perfect poster boy for Blue Sky Studios. But that lack of fanfare is justified by how little these movies push themselves. Ice Age: Continental Drift steps in line with that rule, as it brings hilarity in small but ample doses but never does anything truly memorable. A great villain helps, which this film definitely has, but, beyond that, there's very little to warrant much more than lukewarm praise.
Thanks in direct part to that saber-toothed squirrel and his incessant hunt for acorns, the single continent of Pangaea begins breaking apart, forming the continents as they are today. Caught up in this continental shift is our trio of heroes, Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth, and Diego the sabre-toothed cat voiced once again by Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary, respectively. The three find themselves lost at sea with Sid's cranky-and-she-knows-it grandmother voiced by the cranky-and-she-knows-it Wanda Sykes. As they try to make their way back to their tribe and Manny's wife and daughter, they encounter various sea creature and pirates alike, the head of which being Captain Gutt, a giant ape who could very well fill in as the missing link if humans hadn't already been established in this world back in the first movie.
This fast-and-loose approach with continuity is way down at the bottom of issues Ice Age: Continental Drift runs smack dab into. Steve Martino & Mike Thurmeier step in for director duties here, which makes sense as they co-directed a few of the Scrat shorts we've seen over the years. They're just names when it comes to this franchise, though, since nothing special ever happens in any of the Ice Age movies. They come and go so quickly and without much to differentiate between them that it even becomes a guessing game as to how many there really are. This is the fourth one, or, at least, that's what IMDb tells us. They play like sitcoms, each of the character stepping in with typical baggage. This baggage gets cleared up by the end of the film and in basic, predictable fashion, but it always seems to find its way back into their lives once the next film hits.
Martino & Thurmeier do an affable enough job with the pacing and consistency with its humor. There's very little question that the Ice Age movies make us laugh for the 90 minutes we sit through them. This latest entry in the series has enough adventure to keep even the most distracted of child audience members from running up and down the aisles or falling asleep. Of course, just like the other films, Continental Drift seems content with being just that good. As long as it doesn't bore people, it's not going to go the extra distance to make something worthy of yet another sequel. The name recognition - and Scrat, let's not kid ourselves - takes care of the potential for another follow-up. The Ice Age films don't have any problems finding an audience. They still haven't been able to crack that nut of making a truly great film, though.
There are always added characters on board for the latest adventure, and Continental Drift has a few of these, as well. Sid's wacky grandmother provides enough worthy laughs to keep her from being a totally wasted character, and a female sabre-toothed tiger voiced by Jennifer Lopez is an obvious but likable choice for Diego to play the alpha male. Gutt's pack of varied shipmates float on their iceberg of a pirate ship with enjoyable and even memorable results, but it's Gutt himself that remains the best element Continental Drift has to offer.
A lot of this can be attributed to Peter Dinklage, who provides the gruff and swarthy voice to the primate pirate captain. Gutt's appearance is nothing special, unlike the albino peacock we got in last year's great, animated film. Gutt is given fun lines, but Dinklage's voice, the way you can hear the wicked smile in his voice as the character is describing all the horrific things he's going to do to our heroes, is what really brings the character to stunning life. You're hard-pressed to find a more suitable and effective voice in the entire series of films, though Leguizamo's wacky-beyond-reason Sid is a close second.
It's a shame, though, that Gutt and Dinklage's voice along with that character aren't fitted into something a little more remarkable. After four films, the Ice Age franchise seems to have sat in the refrigerator cooling long after its expiration date passed. With as little effort that seems to be put into these films to create engaging stories, alluring characters, or even top-notch animation—the visuals are, like everyone else in the film, just good enough to keep from being slammed—it's difficult to justify how this series can keep going on and on. Granted, the amount of money they make is difficult to argue against, but this kind of fast-food movie-making gets tired quickly. We'll probably be saying the same thing about a fifth Ice Age movie and a sixth and a seventh and probably an eighth. Let's just hope by then that Scrat finally has his allusive acorn.
Jeremy's Rating: 5 out of 10