Movie Review: Ice Age: Continental Drift
By Matthew Huntley
July 24, 2012
The Ice Age franchise may be expanding in terms of global box-office, but its story ideas are moving in the opposite direction. The series has hit a point where the latest installment, subtitled Continental Drift, feels more like an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon show than a full-fledged movie. Watching it, I sensed the writers scraping the bottom of the conflict barrel just to give the characters something to do for 90 minutes and justify another sequel, which is nothing more than a blatant cash grab. From a business perspective, I can see why it was green lit - the last Ice Age remains the highest grossing animated movie of all time on the international front, which is saying a lot. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been followed up with something more inspired than this.
Once again, the film follows Manny (voice of Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo), the lovable mammoth, saber-toothed tiger and sloth, who always wind up on a wacky adventure together. This time, the trio, along with Sid’s kooky old grandmother (Wanda Sykes), whom Sid’s family has left in his care, ends up on an iceberg that takes them out to a remote area of the ocean after their homeland divides by way of continental drift. Or it may have been caused by Scrat, the zany little squirrel who’s always running around in these movies trying to preserve his acorn. Strangely enough, we never see him eat it, although by sticking the pointy end in the ice, he may have single-handedly caused the entire Earth’s land mass to split apart.
Whatever the reason, it couldn’t be a worse time for Manny to be separated from his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and their teenage daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer), who’s just starting to come into her own and enjoy her freedom. Her best friend is a molehog named Louis (Josh Gad), but she starts to let her adolescent hormones get the better of her when the cool and hip Ethan (Drake) enters the picture. After she sneaks off to be with other mammoths her own age, Manny embarrasses her and they fight before he’s swept out to sea.
On the ocean, Manny and the gang are taken prisoner by a gang of animals acting as pirates, led by a power-hungry monkey, aptly named Gutt (Peter Dinklage), whose crew includes the female sabre-tooth Shira (Jennifer Lopez). Naturally, she catches the eye of Diego and it goes without saying they’ll become romantically linked by movie’s end.
From here on out, the story cross-cuts between Manny, Diego, Sid and Granny trying to escape the pirates and Ellie and the rest of the pre-historic creatures migrating to the land bridge to meet them. All in all, the movie is just another animals-acting-like-humans comedy adventure, only there’s nothing particularly charming, funny, unique or magical about it. It’s mediocre family fare that’s neither exciting nor engaging but just sort of there. Granted, I didn’t go into Ice Age: Continental Drift expecting poetry or depth, but I did expect something more than a simple fable that preaches all the usual messages like family comes first; never let anyone change who you are; appreciate what you have, etc. Not that these messages aren’t useful, especially for the movie’s target audience, but even little kids must be tired of talking animals with modern-day sensibilities always dishing out the same old life lessons.
Speaking of the animals, they’re all voiced by fairly popular celebrities, and over the closing credits, we see footage of the actors in the recording booths, which may be the filmmakers’ way of telling us since they’re all having fun so should we. While some of them do have vocal talent, most merely have recognizable names that serve as marketing tools on billboards and posters. This is further evidence that Ice Age: Continental Drift was intended to be a moneymaker first instead of a fully realized story with characters worth investing in. Sure, the presentation is slick, but it lacks substance and purpose. I speak as an adult here, but it’s likely kids will feel the same way. There were plenty of younger ones at the screening and they seem less than enthused by what the movie had to offer.
Continental Drift is not an evil movie by any means, but the filmmakers and studio seemed to have taken the audience for granted, assuming that parents will pay for them and their kids to see any type of computer animated film so long as it has bright colors, cute animals and a popular celebrity cast. This movie’s box-office receipts may prove this is still the case, but that doesn’t make it right. It may surprise the makers of Ice Age to know this, but families want to be inspired and enveloped by a good story just as much as film critics; and not just patronized by the same old gimmicks.