'Ice Age: Continental Drift': This Time, Sans Dinosaurs

Illogic has always been a point of odd pride for the Ice Ages.

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Director: Steve Martino, Michael Thurmeier
Cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Wanda Sykes, Keke Palmer
Rated: PG
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-07-13 (General release)
UK date: 2012-07-13 (General release)

Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) has never been especially quick, but near the start of Ice Age: Continental Drift, he comes up with a zinger. The occasion is a surprise visit from his parents, Eunice (Joy Behar) and Milton (Alan Tudyk), during which he tries to convince them that he's led a worthy, adventurous life since they abandoned him. "We fought dinosaurs," he announces, alluding to the previous Ice Age movie's plot. "It didn't really make sense, but it was fun." And with that, his parents abandon him again.

The moment makes clear a few things about this fourth installment of the franchise. First, even if illogic has always been a point of odd pride for the Ice Ages, it actually seems less fun than lazy. (If you were an eight-year-old who had questions about that dinosaur business, too bad.) Second, the story of Sid is here a focus, if only to introduce his toothless granny (Wanda Sykes), whom his parents have brought along in order to leave her with him, that is, to abandon her along with him. (Just saying: this may be a less than hilarious scenario.) And third, the movie means to make a lot of fun of the toothless granny. (Perhaps granny jokes are the new fun.)

In fact, the movie means to head directly to the well worn formula of the previous installments. Like more than a few kids' movies, it makes use of trauma in pursuit of humor. In this case, Sid and Granny's traumas are only introductory: the much larger, more alarming trauma involves the creation of the continents, here initiated by yet another effort by Scrat (Chris Wedge) to secure an acorn, an effort that splits open the earth from the core outward (the plot, more or less, of a previous Scrat short).

These drifting continents occasion another trek for the trio of Sid, Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), and Diego the sabre-toothed cat (Denis Leary). When the land heaves and breaks off, Manny is horrified to be separated from his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and now teenaged daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) -- and all three are horrified to find that granny is on their drifting chunk of turf. As the trio tries to get back to the others and the others make a march to a land bridge Manny spots as he floats away, the movie cuts between their efforts, pretty much randomly.

This randomness becomes more glaring as the two groups engage in separate and wholly unoriginal adventures. If the basic land break-up reminds you of Voyage to the Center of the Earth and Happy Feet 2, the pirates who find Manny and his crew will remind you of, oh, you name it, everything from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Pirates! Band of Misfits to Peter Pan and Muppet Treasure Island. The leader this time is a big bully of an ape named Gutt (Peter Dinklage), who has to explain that his name comes from his inclination to gut his enemies. (Really, where's Bill Nighy when you need him?) He's attended by his own crew of uninspired sidekicks (including Aziz Ansari as a rabbit and Nick Frost as an elephant seal) and instantly inspired to hate Manny when the mammoth uses his giant weight to thwart his plan to make Sid and his granny walk the plank.

As predictable as all this pirate business may be -- including a forgettable song and dance about how they came together -- its primary purpose appears to be to slow down Manny's journey back to Ellie. And oh yes, to introduce Diego to his new girlfriend, Captain Gutt's first mate, who happens to be a female sabre-toothed cat, Shira (Jennifer Lopez). While her flirtations with Diego move Manny and Sid to engage in oh-so-ancient sitting-in-the-tree rhyming, Shira mostly seems another instance of rip-off, as her wasp-waisty figure and catty eyes seem drawn directly from Tigress (Angelina Jolie) in Kung Fu Panda, not to mention Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain) of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.

At the same time, in the movie's other too familiar plot, Peaches follows in her mother's gigantic footsteps, crushing on a guy, Ethan (Drake) whom her father dislikes. While Manny has to learn to appreciate his daughter's sense of independence (which is a little like his own), she also comes to see his experience and wisdom when it comes to being loyal to best friends. In Peaches' case, that friend is a plucky molehog named Louis (Josh Gad), whom she dumps pretty much as soon as Ethan and his pack of small-minded, gossipy, and cruelly judgmental mean girl mammoths (voiced by Nicki Minaj, Ally Romano, and Heather Morris) start making fun of him.

Poor Manny, who so misses his family. Poor granny, who misses her teeth. Poor Peaches and poor Louis. And oh yes, poor Scrat, too, injected into the body of this movie in order to chase his acorn. You're almost glad to see Ellie, who pops up conveniently to offer sage advice to her daughter. By the time these storylines come together, you may be wishing the continents had just drifted right over them.


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