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Ice Age: Continential Drift (2012)

| July 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Ice Age: Continental Drift is a movie that is best at moments of pure slapstick and deadly dull and boring when it tries to deal with the personal problems of the characters.  What do we care about the love affairs, friendships and family issues among tigers, sloths, possums and woolly mammoths?  Weighing the inclusion of both the comic and the personal elements, finally the family issues take over and the movie upends.  It isn’t a terrible movie, just a flawed comedy with tiny gems mixed in.

This is no less than the third sequel to the 2002 hit Ice Age which was successful by keeping its story and characters lean and funny.  The sequels have mistakenly tried to give the three leads Manny the Mammoth, Diego the Sabertooth and Sid the Sloth comfortable family relations.  But who cares?  We’re more interested in watching them be funny then be a family.

The story this time is set off by the hapless Scrat the Squirrel whose never-ending pursuit of his elusive acorn causes a rift that splits up Pangaea which, if you’ll recall from geography class, was the massive supercontinent that split apart 200 million years ago and settled into the continents we have today.  Meanwhile, Manny the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) is having trouble being a strict father to his daughter Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer) and finds himself separated from this family by an ice break and (rather predictably) after an argument.

Set adrift on a large chunk of ice with pals Diego (voice by Denis Leary), Sid the Sloth (voice by John Leguizamo) and Sid’s foul-smelling, toothless Granny (voiced by Wanda Sykes) the quartet try to find their way back to the continent so Manny can rejoin the family.  Along the way, the rag-tag band is accosted by a pirate ship-shaped glacier captained by an obnoxious Pirate baboon called Gutt (voiced by Peter Dinklage) whose plan for our heroes, is . . . well, not really explained very well.  Kill them, maybe?  He’ll do whatever a pirate does.  He certainly can’t rob them, they aren’t carrying anything of value.

Actually the baboon is quite a boring character.  He’s all menace and bad teeth and pirate jokes that don’t really go anywhere.  He’s there to be your standard movie villain, show up to provide a problem and then get his comeuppance.  Peter Dinklage, the Emmy winner from HBO’s Game of Thrones does what he can with the voice, but he really has nothing to work with.  Gutt’s crew aren’t that interesting either.  They include a bloodthirsty rabbit, a dumb-witted Elephant Seal, a badger, a kangaroo and a white tiger with the voice of Jennifer Lopez.

None of these characters have any real personality.  They are merely a part of the set design.  They come onscreen, have their personality traits and then disappear from the film as quickly as they disappear from our memory.  The one new character in the film that actually works is the character of Granny, Sid’s seemingly senile old grandmother.  As played by Wanda Sykes, she is a work of comic joy and is welcomed every time she comes onscreen.  A nice running gag about whether or not her often-mention pet Precious is dead (or real) gives the movie a nice comic payoff.  Sykes, of course, is a wonderful comedienne who has the perfect voice for animation and a knack for raising dead movies like Over the Hedge, Monster-in-Law, and Evan Almighty out of the doldrums.

The other gem of the film is the required role for Scrat the Squirrel who always appears around the edges of these movies, and whose role this time is set off by a treasure map carved inside a hollowed-out acorn that he finds at the bottom of the sea.  What’s waiting for him at the other end of the map is best left for you to discover.  It provides the best moment in the movie, and proves once again that Scrat is one of the great cartoon characters.  He deserves his own movie.

The problem is that in order to get to Scrat’s payoff, we have to sit through a dusty old plot involving Manny’s family problems.  There some nonsense about his daughter Peaches’ friendship with a trustworthy possum and whether or not she will ditch him to go with the popular group.  This subplot is as dull as it sounds.  Who cares?

This is a comedy, and it is best when it plays like a slapstick comedy.  We perk up at the comic moments and we check our watches during the family drama. The movie is too stuffed with uninteresting chararacters. The better half of the cast is played by former stand-up comedians: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Wanda Sykes, and the least interesting characters are played by musicians: Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Nicki Minaj. Next time – and it may be inevitable that there will be a next time – maybe the cast needs some trimming and that might be a good place to start. Let the comedy lead the pack and let the rest just go.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Animated, Kids