‘Ice Age’ finally cracks

Article Published: Jul. 19, 2012 | Modified: Jul. 19, 2012
‘Ice Age’ finally cracks

Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge) returns in ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift.’

Technically speaking, since there are still ice sheets on Earth, we’re still part of an ice age that started some 2.6 million years ago.

It’s good news for polar bears and 20th Century Fox, producers of the “Ice Age” series, which, like its real-life counterpart, seems to go on forever.

“Ice Age” has its charm, but has always fallen in the “good enough” category, dwarfed by animated features with more depth, character and audience appeal. In this fourth installment, “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” the filmmakers aren’t even trying. It’s as if the animators were the only ones to show up for work.

The animation is brilliant, expertly rendered and easily making this the most visually appealing “Ice Age” yet, but the characters, story and dialogue that inhabit these environs are the polar opposite.

In fact, “Continental Drift” is outdone by its preceding animated short. “The Longest Daycare,” featuring Maggie Simpson from “The Simpsons,” manages to fill more comedy and heart in four and a half minutes – and without any dialogue – than “Continental Drift” does in 90.

This time, we find mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), sabretooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary, “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo, “The Pest”) caught in the midst of continental drift, a global event unwittingly sparked by squirrel-rat hybrid Scrat’s (Chris Wedge, “Robots”) enduring – and still comical – pursuit of the mighty acorn.

As Pangea falls apart, Manny and friends are separated from their herd – Manny’s wife, Ellie (Queen Latifah, “Last Holiday”) and daughter Peaches (singer Keke Palmer) – and cast out to sea, clinging to a floating chunk of ice, with Sid’s cantankerous and completely extraneous grandmother (Wanda Sykes, HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) in tow. Meanwhile, Ellie and the bunch are threatened by an ever-encroaching land shelf that’s pushing them toward the ocean.

Manny’s determined to somehow find a way home and rescue his family, only to encounter a band of animal pirates sailing an iceberg, led by ape Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage, HBO’s “Game of Thrones”).

Gutt explains, through a particularly poorly written song, that he and his band of animals, including sabretooth tiger Shira (Jennifer Lopez, “Jersey Girl”) and idiot seal Flynn (Nick Frost, “Hot Fuzz”), are looting the seas to survive. Furthermore, they want to press Manny and company into their crew – or make them walk the plank.

As with the previous films, the funniest part of “Continental Drift” is Scrat’s fruitless pursuit of the acorn. Mostly dialogue-free, Scrat’s segments are more akin to the Looney Tunes style of comedy from yesteryear and are that much better for it. With “Continental Drift,” it seems as if silence speaks louder than words.

Directed by Steve Martino (“Horton Hears a Who”) and Mike Thurmeier (“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”), “Continental Drift” is strictly for kids, with very little going for their parents, unless those parents are content with colorful images, talking animals (who naturally rap and dance during the credits) and zero substance.

The filmmakers halfheartedly attempt some grown-up appeal with an extraordinarily large celebrity cast, some of whom only have a couple lines and are obviously there to cash a quick paycheck and pad the movie’s resumé.

Among them are Patrick Stewart (TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation), Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”), whose only line is a laugh, Sean William Scott (“American Pie”), Joy Behar (“Manhattan Murder Mystery”) and singer Nicki Minaj.

But it’s just as well, since most of the jokes fall embarrassingly flat, particularly those revolving around Ellie’s and Peaches’ plotline, while others are recycled from previous scenes. Certain scenes are also recycled from a couple of “Ice Age” shorts released over the last couple years, “Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up” and “Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up: Part 2.”

The best line comes from Leguizamo’s Sid, explaining the events from the last film, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”

“We met dinosaurs in the Ice Age, which doesn’t make any sense, but it sure was fun,” he says, while simultaneously hitting the nail on the head.

“Continental Drift” doesn’t make much sense either, but misses the boat when it comes to fun.

“Ice Age: Continental Drift,” rated PG for mild rude humor and action/peril, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 15-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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