It's prehistoric animals versus prehistoric pirate, umm, animals in 'Ice Age 4: Continental Drift'
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
‘Continental Drift’ isn't a bad film. And with that Simpsons short, ‘The Longest Daycare’ playing before the movie, it even offers some bang for the buck. It's improved in almost every way possible from its previous instalment. The visuals in particular, are mighty impressive. Everything just pops out, in sheer clarity which really fits in with the subject matter of the film.
Now, you might be wondering about the title: What the heck does "Continental Drift" mean? Nope, our favourite prehistoric trio isn't drifting about in a Bentley Continental GT. Instead, like most ‘Ice Age’ films, the events that unfold in the movie are due to a subplot involving Scrat, the sabre-toothed squirrel with an unhealthy obsession with acorns. This time, Scrat's actions directly lead to the separation of the continent Pangaea into Earth's current arrangement. Separated from the rest of Manny's herd, Manny, Diego and Sid must find a way back to the continent before terrible things happen to the rest of them.
Look! It's the Ice Pearl chasing Manny and gang
The herd of characters is largely the way you remember them: Manny the Woolly Mammoth is still the same, heroic and somewhat overprotective of his wife and daughter. Diego still retains his gruff but “sensitive underneath the surface” demeanour and Sid is well, Sid... the screwball of the group.
Manny and his daughter, Peaches' last interaction before the separation just happened to be an argument -- adding more reason for both of them to get back to each other to make amends. Also added to the mix is Sid's crazy grandma, abandoned by Sid's family who reunites with Sid just for the sole goal of leaving her for Sid to take care of.
The gang's quest leads them into conflict with a pretty unlikely foe, a group of pirates led by an ape named Captain Gutt, played by Peter Dinklage. While we weren’t quite sure just how that was going to play out; the pirate angle does make for some pretty spectacular and over the top action sequences as well as some inventive visual gags. We never did notice it on the poster at first... but the pirate flag on the raft is actually a skunk, which made us laugh out loud in the theater.
The humour is still very fun but it's not especially smart or fresh. Sid and Scrat both do their shtick to try and draw the laughs and for the most part, they succeed although the formula does feel a little tired this time around.
The movie reminds us of another animated film from earlier in the year, ‘The Lorax’ (Read our review of ‘The Lorax here) in which they both seemed to play the cards too safe and didn't take the risks necessary to elevate the story to another level.
'Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage voices 'Ice Age 4's' snarling pirate captain
And while kids won't be discerning enough to feel it, the adults accompanying them certainly will. The bright colours and visuals certainly give the movie a “wow” factor but it won't be enough for everyone to look past the flaws, especially casual fans that weren't really enamoured with the franchise in the first place.
The buddy movie dynamic between the three leads is very much appreciated as the movie is pumped full of new characters. These characters, while portrayed by some very suitable and likable voice talent, save for a few like Shira (Jennifer Lopez); are pretty one dimensional and played for quick and easy laughs. Somehow, it feels like there was a checklist involved in creating this film. More of Scrat's antics? Check! Characters meant purely for comic relief? Check! Cute little animal creatures. Check! And so on.
The movie is still cute and funny enough to fulfil any movie hungry kid, but the trick will be to reinvent the franchise with the next movie (it's been strongly hinted there will be a fifth one) without altering what made the first few movies so memorable to that target audience in the first place. Overall, ‘Continent Drift’ is still a very enjoyable movie and will no doubt satisfy many little kids looking for some fun at the movies, but it loses points for that little bit of staleness that has crept in.