Little drifting from family fun
It is becoming increasingly easy for critics to reprove the multiple-installment franchise as merely a cash grab by artistically bereft studios that shun originality in favor of regurgitated formula. And boffo box office usually justifies such repetition. So it is with Blue Sky Studios, whose first major triumph was the “Ice Age” franchise that debuted 10 years ago. (Yes, it has been that long.) Now on its fourth installment, the aptly named “Continental Divide,” the studio has likely run out of ideas. While it may do well at the cash registers, it will have little to recommend it, right?
Well, hold on to your acorns.
Seeing this film in a theater packed with parents and their excited kids is an enlightening resource for a film observer, and more of them should make this a regular occurrence. In short, “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” while not straying much from the original formula, hits the mark for the intended audience with non-stop action, a consistent barrage of cross-generational gags, and punchlines and resplendent CGI visual prowess. Kids will love this film and parents won’t be bored for a minute.
Back together is the triumphant trio of worry wart woolly mammoth Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), half-heartedly menacing saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and the lisping lunatic of a sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), who must deal with the cataclysmic consequences caused by our favorite acorn-obsessed rodent Scrat. His endeavors (including one previously released as a short) permeate this installment and are as frenetically fun as ever.
Manny and wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and rebellious teenaged daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) become separated along with Manny and his sidekicks that now include Sid’s Granny (hilariously voiced by Wanda Sykes). The group is forced by icebergs to the high seas, while the rest of the herd tries to avoid the ever-increasing land mass upheavals. Along the way our heroes contend with a ragtag bunch of seafaring pirates led by tyrannical ape Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and even some tempting sirens that are actually dangerous sea serpents.
Forget the scientific faux paus here, “Ice Age: Continental Divide” works overtime to keep the mostly non-gross out laughs coming (though a “boogers” joke will have you chuckling into the next scene), and a pretty impressive musical number that leaves one wanting more. (It’s similar to installment two’s vulture-infested Busby Berkeley inspired sequence.) Speaking of which, this fourth installment ranks right up there with the second, improving on the third while not being as groundbreaking as the original.
Another wonderful surprise: The inclusion of a terrific “Simpsons” short featuring the still non-talking baby Maggie entitled, “The Longest Daycare,” which provides its trademark witty brilliance. So arrive early.
Rated PG for mild rude humor and action/peril.