With the voices of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Wanda Sykes, Peter Dinklage. Written by Michael Berg, Jason Fuchs. Directed by Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier. Rated PG (for mild rude humor and action/peril). 94 minutes.
The “Ice Age” movies have made money even though they can’t hold a candle to the efforts of Pixar or DreamWorks Animation. ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT is the fourth film in the series and the best that can be said is that it’s not as terrible as the last two. Even with the 3D computer animation, the characters seem slightly cartoonier this time around (look at their eyes) and the story has left all logic behind.
The main plot has Scrat, the insane prehistoric squirrel who been chasing an acorn since the start of the series, set off a series of events that causes the formation of the continents. For Manny the wooly mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), and the manic Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), this means they are drifting at sea while the rest of their friends and relations are moving away from the geologic upheavals. Manny’s daughter is trying to assert her adolescent independence against her father’s overprotectiveness, while Sid has to deal with his crazy Granny (Wanda Sykes) who has been dumped on him by his family.
For most of the film Manny, Diego, Sid and Granny are trying to get back to their “herd,” while those left behind – led by Ellie (Queen Latifah) try to get to somewhere safe. Meanwhile Manny and company encounter an improbable group of prehistoric pirates led by Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and his motley crew. More misadventures and voice casting of people like Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Joy Behar, Nick Frost, and others ensue.
It’s not very good, at least not compared to this summer’s animated offerings like “Madagascar 3” and “Brave,” but it should keep the youngsters happy, especially if they’re already familiar with the characters from the previous films. The problem is that there’s little in the way of wit to engage the adults. The attempts to make us care for the characters are all too obvious. When Manny’s daughter betrays a friend to fit in with the “cool” mammoths, even kids should see the moral lesson coming a mile away.
To resolve the final showdown the story requires the appearance of a new character who is as convenient as he is preposterous. The resolution of the story will only work for children and for those who simply don’t care and just want to have a few laughs. Unfortunately for many adult viewers, those few laughs are about all that “Ice Age: Continental Drift” provides.
It is preceded by a short featuring Maggie, the baby on “The Simpsons” in a wordless and amusing incident at “The Ayn Rand School for Tots.” Although children should enjoy the simple story – with Maggie rescuing a butterfly – one can’t help but thinking that this is the bribe to get adults to sit through the main feature.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.