(2012)2.5Perry SeibertThe Ice Age movies are unquestionably gigantic box-office smashes, not just in America but around the world -- apparently talking animals translate well in any culture. The fourth film in the animated series, Ice Age: Continental Drift, does nothing but replicate the tired franchise's formula for success.
This time out, wooly mammoth Manny (voice of Ray Romano) gets physically separated from his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and his rebellious teenage daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) because the squirrel Skrat brings about the end of Pangaea by chasing an acorn into the Earth's core in the film's opening, and funniest, segment. Manny, with the help of his friends Sid the annoying sloth (John Leguizamo), the tough smilodon Diego (Denis Leary), and Sid's seemingly demented grandmother Granny (Wanda Sykes), must trick a cruel ape pirate (Peter Dinklage) in order to commandeer his ship and reunite with his loved ones. In addition to this main storyline, there's a plot involving Peaches' crush on a popular mammoth, and the horrible way she treats her best friend, a molehog named Louis (Josh Gad), after being accepted by his too-cool-for-school clique. Also, Diego finally gets a possible girlfriend named Shira (voiced by Jennifer Lopez).
The combined worldwide box-office take of the previous three films in this franchise is nearly $2 billion -- the last one, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, nearly hit $900 million singlehandedly -- so obviously 20th Century Fox is quite happy to do little more than remake the last film in every way possible. And that's precisely what they've done, filling Continental Drift with pointless chases, peppering in two or three funny one-liners, loading it up with homilies about sticking by your friends and family (lessons these apparently amnesic prehistoric beasts have already learned three times), and ending with a big group singalong.
There's nothing exactly "bad" about this sequel, it's competently adequate. That's an apt description of pretty much every film in the Ice Age series, making them the animated equivalent of Jay Leno's reign on the Tonight Show. It's safe, predictable, and so blandly comforting that people flock to its familiarity.
Those who are fond of Skrat's Road Runner-inspired escapades won't be disappointed by the segments devoted to his ongoing quest, but for anyone hoping to feel a smidgen of the emotional authenticity of the best Pixar, Dreamworks, or Aardman titles, Ice Age: Continental Drift will leave them out in the cold -- a terrible pun that's funnier than 95% of the movie.