Friday, July 13, 2012
Movie review: Ice Age: Continental Drift
Ice Age comes back from the dead to deliver a solid fourth installment.
When Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs came out in 2009, I all but declared the series to be dead. It was an uninspired
cash grab attempt at continuing the series, with anachronistic plot points, recycling of jokes, and new characters who didn’t add anything to the mix. But it took in nearly $900 million worldwide, so a fourth installment was a foregone conclusion.
Needless to say, expectations were not high for Ice Age: Continental Drift (showing in both 2D and 3D), in which Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary), and Sid (John Leguizamo) find themselves separated from everyone they know when that crazy Scrat unwittingly causes the super-continent of Pangaea to break apart. But then something funny happens – literally. Somehow, the Ice Age filmmakers – which include one writer and one director directly responsible for the previous film – get the series’ groove back.
They do so by making the main characters actually have something in the balance this time around. Once Scrat sets things into motion, almost every character on screen is on an unstoppable journey in which the stakes couldn’t be higher. The shifting land forces all animals to seek safe shelter, while the main trio, set adrift on an iceberg, try to find a way back to the rest of the group. They also do so by learning from their mistakes, even throwing in a self-deprecating line acknowledging that the third film wasn’t exactly up to snuff.
Fun is never far around the corner, thanks to a slew of new characters. There’s Peaches (Keke Palmer), Manny’s now-teenaged daughter who brings along the requisite teenage issues. Sid’s estranged family shows up just long enough to dump the crotchety and kooky Granny (Wanda Sykes) on him. And Manny, Diego, and Sid run into some pirates on the high seas, led by Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), who don’t take kindly to having their territory infringed upon. That group also includes Shira (Jennifer Lopez), a saber-toothed tiger and natural love interest for Diego. And that’s not to mention the continuing adventures of Scrat, whose quest for that elusive acorn might – might – be coming to an end.
There’s a lot going on in Continental Drift, so much so that the movie really shouldn’t work as well as it does. But the focus generally remains on the main trio, which is what made Ice Age a success in the first place. Romano, Leary, and Leguizamo have perfected their respective characters’ schtick by now, but even though the beats are predictable, the execution doesn't become any less enjoyable. Most of the new characters find ways to bring a few chuckles, especially Sykes as Granny. Her screechy voice perfectly fits the seemingly grumpy sloth who has more going on upstairs than others give her credit for.
I’ll be the first to admit that I had issued a premature death knell to the Ice Age series, but to be fair, the last film gave no indication it had anything left in its tank. I couldn’t be happier that I was wrong, and I hope the filmmakers take heed of what works and what doesn’t for the inevitable fifth movie.
For showtimes for Ice Age: Continental Drift, click here.