The Ice Age franchise has been around for a decade now, shockingly enough, and in that time they’ve settled into a comfortable groove of inoffensive family oriented entertainment. Obviously, Fox and the folks at Blue Sky Animation are doing something right. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was the biggest hit yet, earning well over $800M. The formula for box office success may have been found, but this is the wrong place to turn if you’re looking for an animated film that strives to be anything more than a cash cow. Ice Age: Continental Drift is a decent enough 90 minute babysitter for the kids, but that’s it.
The best part of every Ice Age movie has been the wacky, never-ending acorn chase by series mascot, Scrat. The saber-toothed squirrel is like an old school Looney Tunes character on an inane quest. He’s Wile E. Coyote without even a measure of brains, and rather than being just the side show act, this time his misadventures have real consequences on the story. Again trying to get his hands on the elusive acorn, he causes some disastrous repercussions on the planet’s make-up, shattering the idyllic continent of Pangaea into pieces. The usual trio of woolly mammoth Manny(Ray Romano), Sid(John Leguizamo) the dim-witted sloth, and Diego(Denis Leary) the friendly saber-toothed tiger, are set adrift on an escaping iceberg after the cataclysmic shift. They’re joined by Sid’s senile old granny(Wanda Sykes), who has been abandoned by the family much the same way Sid was in the first film.
There are some cool ideas that unfortunately don’t reach the maturity stage. Manny and the gang embark on an Odyssean quest to return home to their loved ones, running into a crazy assortment of characters along the way. The best of these is Captain Gutt(Peter Dinklage), a chimp pirate king who commands a scurvy crew looking to stand ruin their journey and destroy Manny’s family in the process. Jennifer Lopez lends her voice to a sultry and feisty white tiger who Diego takes a liking to, but may be more trouble than she’s worth.
As a means of buffeting the thin plot, the film is overloaded with characters each with their own little stories that don’t really go anywhere. Manny and his wife, Ellie(Queen Latifah), are suffering through some growing pains with their teenage daughter, Peaches(Keke Palmer), who seems to be slipping into a bad crowd of Kardashian-esque starlets. Perhaps naming her “Peaches” was a bad move, then? Peaches is best friends with a molehog(Josh Gad), who secretly carries a torch for her, but isn’t cool enough to be part of the hip crowd. Issues of loyalty, self-confidence, and friendship are delivered in easily digestible nuggets. Laughs are few and far between, and are practically non-existent when Scrat isn’t around. The voice work remains impeccable, and Blue Sky has upped their game on the animation front. This is the best looking Ice Age yet, and the lush locales and frigid glaciers pop in fully realized 3D.
Ice Age: Continental Drift is a perfectly acceptable continuation of the prehistoric franchise, and will likely please younger audiences and longtime fans. This is a movie for kids, but Fox hasn’t totally left adults out of the equation. The Simpsons short film, The Longest Day, is attached and is arguably the smartest and funniest thing we’ve seen from the long-running cartoon in at least a decade. It stars baby Maggie Simpson as she spends one awful and terrifying day at the Ayn Rand School for Tots, and is jam packed with clever, subversive jokes that will fly over a child’s head but will hit home with their parents. Be sure to arrive early so as not to miss it.