- Adult Appeal
Music: John Powell Editing: James Palumbo, David Ian Salter
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift came out this weekend and it was less than thrilling. The characters were cute enough, the message good enough, and the funnies just funny enough to make seeing it not a complete waste of time, but overall the film was pretty lacking. The numerous storylines were simultaneously dull and distracting, too many plot elements were recycled and there was no lasting impression. The Ice Age series is definitely getting a bad case of sequel-itis.
The basic premise is that, due to continental drift, Manny the mammoth, as well as Sid the sloth, Diego the Saber-toothed cat, and Sid’s elderly Granny, has become separated from his family. To make matters worse, this separation occurred right after a typical father-daughter fight between Manny and teenage Peaches. Peaches wants to go down to “The Falls” and hang with the cool kids, while overprotective Manny thinks this is a bad idea. There was much adolescent eye-rolling and no chance to apologize before the earth-separating disaster.
Peaches, her mother Ellie, and all the animals left behind on the main continent are trying to make their way to the land bridge, where Manny and his crew on a swiftly-speeding iceberg promise to meet them. As well as the sometimes dangerous journey itself, Peaches has to deal with worries about her father, guilt about their fight, and anxiety about trying to fit in with the cool kids. Meanwhile, Manny & Co. are having their own problems: Sid’s crazy Granny, misleading sirens and, most notably, a gang of bloodthirsty pirates.
I like when movies give minor characters, especially normally-overlooked female minor characters, a cut of the action. Continental Drift has good mother-daughter chemistry between Ellie and Peaches. Ellie lets Peaches learn her own lesson with the bad-boy she has a crush on, but makes sure to bestow words of wisdom: “I know you like this one, but don’t let it change who you are.” Excellent advice to female mammoths young and old! Not one to cry and mope now that the men-folk are drifting away, Ellie also rallies the troops and drives everyone to action. In the end, Peaches gets to take a pretty awesome stand as well, as does her tiny side-kick, Louis. Even much-ridiculed Granny is tough-as-nails and much more crafty than she’s given credit for. This is a movie full of many heroes of all shapes, sizes, species and genders.
This movie is brought to you by the word “friendship.” Whether it’s Diego trying to convince saber-toothed pirate Shira to join the good guys, Ellie telling Peaches to remember who her real friends are, or Sid finding the meaning of family, the big lesson of the day is acceptance. Ice Age has its share of faults and fumbles, but its heart is most definitely in the right place.
There is just way too much going on in a 90-minute movie. We have the journey of the remaining animals to the land bridge, we have Peaches’ drama, we have the shipwrecked companions, we have pirates, we have an erratic prehistoric squirrel searching for Atlantis. The plot jumped from one of these things to another with no rhyme or reason and the overall effect was pretty jarring. Just when the audience starts to get pulled into a daring escape with the pirates, they’re zoomed away to an emotional scene with Peaches and her new friends. Just when we start to get hooked on the Peaches gossip, we’re following Scrat, the mad squirrel. Instead of a cohesive whole, it’s like we’re watching a conglomeration of five different movies smooshed inexpertly together.
Likewise with the plot, more is most certainly not better. I actually liked Captain Gut who’s a giant ape and king of the sea, but he was overshadowed by his numerous comrades. The only other pirate we get to know well is Shira, and she fills the basic mold of good guy who made bad choices. She’s the female love interest to Diego and it’s a story we’ve all seen a hundred billion times before.
Not much original is going on with Peaches’ love-life conflict either. Ethan, the mammoth she’s crushing on, is cliche superficial bad-boy, faithful companion Louis is friendzoned in a way far too familiar, and even the parental disapproval seems contrived.
I’m fine with Scrat being the comic-relief character, but then Granny came along and I figured, “Well, she’s fun, there’s room in the world for her, too.” But of course there are also returning class-clowns Crash and Eddie, and then we meet a clueless elephant seal pirate named Flynn. They’re all basically slightly-altered copies of each other, making too many throwaway “funny” characters and not enough substantial ones.
There were a handfull of times I laughed out loud and, by the sound of it, the kids in the audience seemed to be having a pretty good time. However, it was all simple, forgettable slapstick humor and no variety. There are only so many times Granny can make a crazy-old-lady comment and it be funny, only so many times one of the numerous comedy-relief characters can take a sarcastic insult at face value and be awarded a chuckle. Maybe it’s enough to satisfy the younger audiences, but I was hoping for something more.
Overall Score: 2 Stars Out of 5
Ice Age 4 is entertaining in a noncommittal way and teaches a warm fuzzy lesson about friendship and being a hero, but is it worth the ticket price? I say no. The characters are redundant, the plot disjointed, the humor not appropriate to all ages. Skip this one entirely or wait until it comes out on DVD and watch it on a rainy day. The Ice Age franchise had a good run, but Continental Drift might be a sign that it should go the way of the dinosaurs.
‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ Movie Trailer