Movie Review: Ice Age: Continental Drift
Country: United States
Release Date: July 13, 2012
Distributor: 20th Century Fox||Blue Sky Studios
· Steve Martino
· Mike Thurmeier
· Ray Romano
· Denis Leary
· Queen LAtifah
· John Leguizamo
· Jennifer Lopes
· Keke Palmer
by Dennis Russo
Published: July 15, 2012
"Ice Age: Continental Drift" is the fourth movie to star our friends from the frozen tundra, and along with our regular favorites Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo), and Diego (voiced by Denis Leary) there is also Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah), Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer) and Sid's Granny (voiced by Wanda Sykes). Together they meet many new and hilarious characters as they take part in yet another earth shaking adventure.
Time has passed since we last saw them, and Manny and "Ellie's" daughter Peaches has grown into what one would assume to be a young teenager who wants to have some freedoms of her own -- including being allowed to date boys. "Manny" (as any father) won't hear of it, and predictable friction between the two ensues. It is at that time when their world tears apart (literally) again as the result of Scrat trying to bury his coveted and often times elusive acorn. This time his travails end up causing the continents to divided into their current formations, and Manny, Sid and Diego (and Granny) become separated from the others and have to try and survive to find a way back to the others.
Manny, Sid, Diego and Granny (who Sid's parents unload on him and then leave when he's not looking) wind up on a floating chunk of iceberg after the continent they are on breaks apart. They are carried away in the tumult with Manny shouting to Ellie to get Peaches and the others to safety from the geographical upheaval across a distant land bridge, promising to meet up with them there. This "split" allows the story to go into two directions, while maintaining the central theme of them all trying to get back together.
On one side we have the "three amigos"... and Sid's granny (who is old and crazy) on their own where we are treated to their usual adventurous mishaps, which center around a band of pirates (who man a pirate ship shaped iceberg!) led by the sinister Captain Gutt (voiced by Peter Dinklage). Captain Gutt is sort of a prehistoric chimpanzee/gorilla who got his name from what he is known to do to others; he also chirps a pretty good tune. Gutt's crew is made up of a rabbit, a kangaroo, an overweight sea lion, and a first mate female sabertooth tiger named Shira (voiced by Jennifer Lopez). That's right, a female sabertooth, and I bet you can guess what transpires as the story goes along. Through no real fault of their own (except for trying to escape from the pirates) Captain Gutt blames Manny and the others for sinking his ship and vows revenge against them.
What I find I really like about all the "Ice Age" movies is that even though the premise is simple and in many ways redundant, the way they are written always allows for main character development and growth. By the end of the movie we know more about our friends than we did at the beginning; we see them change, grow, mature and reinforce in us the belief that the strength of family, friendship and love can overcome any obstacle or evil that can be thrown at you. Gosh, and isn't that what a good family movie should do?
On the other side of the coin if you will, while Ellie tries to lead the others to safety, we see her also trying to help Peaches deal with the pratfalls and life experiences of maturing. Peaches is going through the usual "family movie" storyline where she likes a boy mammoth Ethan (voiced by Aubrey Graham), the popular "jock", who doesn't know she exists. The "cool girl" click won't have anything to do with her because she's different (half-'possum, so she thinks/acts). Meanwhile she has a friend, Louis (voiced by Nick Frost) -- nicknamed "Wiener" -- who she thinks of as just a friend, but who is hoping that she will come to see that he wants her to think of him as more than that.
As textbook typical as these storylines get, Peaches doesn't do what she knows is right and forsakes Louis and herself to "fit in" only to have the turn of events change her, and she realizes that what she said and did was wrong. Peaches then sets about trying to undo the hurt she caused. While, yes, this was very formulaic, it was also a very true depiction of "coming of age." Even though I'm a guy, I'm guilty of doing some of the same things she did to fit in when I was that age. If there are going to be more "Ice Age" movies, this sort of character development is critical if those movies are going to remain fresh.
In between both of these stories we have the trials and tribulations of Scrat, who even has his own recurring storyline. In his quest to obtain his elusive acorn, he stumbles upon a treasure map nut showing the whereabouts of a land that appears in the drawing to me overflowing with acorns. His fast, immediate movements and subsequent failures in his quest are, as always, hilarious (but no character development here).
Of course in true" Ice Age" form, both stories are tied back together. Manny keeps his promise and, with the help of his family, immediate and the extended, they save each other and the herd. He also realizes his little girl is not such a little girl anymore and even reluctantly will allow her to go on a date.
I think trying to compare this installment with the others is not fair to it or them. These movies are a progression in the lives of the main characters, not just the "next installment." While the events that happen in each of the movies are different, so too are our main characters; what they were in the previous movies to who they've become now is a huge expanse of character development. We have come to expect them to act in certain ways, say certain things, and even expect certain events to happen to them now that we were not privy to in the previous movies. To this end I would say that this movie is every bit as good as the others, but not better than them either. It's the same but different, and I don't say that jokingly. There is plenty in this movie that makes us remember and enjoy the characters as we've come to love them, and there are enough new characters to interact with to keep it fresh and funny. As with the others, this movie has more than its fair share of bust out loud laughing moments, most of which for me center around the interacting of Sid with his grandmother... and Sid with Diego... and Sid with Manny... well, pretty much everything with Sid in it -- and, of course, Scrat!
The 3D aspect of this movie was good, but not great. While there were many good 3D rendition of scenes I couldn't help but see a disproportionate amount of pointy objects being pointed directly at us. This is something I expected from the old 3D movies of yore. Also, as is the case in my mind's eye, some of the larger 3D scenes made all of the characters seem very small. Plus, when moving very fast, they became a 3D blur. Like I said, good but not great. The animation was excellent and as good as all the other "Ice Age" movies, with the characters all rendered true to form. The voices are tonally the same as well, which I liked because when you have a franchise that spans several years and the characters are voiced be the same actors, over time in many cases an actor's voice changes a bit. I'm happy to say that's not the case here, as all are in good vocal form.
All in all, "Ice Age Continental Drift" is a worthy successor to the franchise and I hope they continue to make more of them, but only if the actors who portray the main characters remain. Their voices have become forever linked to them -- and, as such, a part of us too. I could not bear to hear Sid sound any different than he does now, nor Diego, Manny, Ellie, her brothers... Well...you get the picture.