Movie Review – Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)

Ice Age: Continental Drift, 2012.

Directed by Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier.
Featuring the voice talents of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Keke Palmer, Josh Peck, Chris Wedge, Alan Tudyk, Nick Frost, Patrick Stewart, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Drake and Nicki Minaj.


SYNOPSIS:

After their world starts to literally fall apart, Manny, Diego and Sid embark on another adventure, fighting pirates and the elements in order to find their way home.


Ray Romano has a big nose. Denis Leary is sarcastic. John Leguizamo looks strange. And thus, an unlikely trio were formed.

Ice Age: Continental Drift seems to follow the Shrek template. The first film was very good. The second one was sub-par and seemed to trade on the good word of the first. And the third I didn’t see. And, in my opinion, the fourth is a step back in the right direction.

The story we have presented to us, is in fact, two. We follow the tale of the trio as they’re separated from their home by a natural disaster. They must embark on a journey where they fight pirates and struggle against the unrelenting oceans in order to get back to their herd. Sid’s family also turn up for a moment or two purely to offload Granny, a seemingly senile old sloth.

The other story follows Peaches, Manny the mammoth’s daughter, as she tries to outrun the end of the world, both literally and metaphorically. She must run from rock slides, escape cave-ins and stop her dad from embarrassing her in front of her friends. It’s a journey designed for the kids, as Peaches must go through the difficult process of growing up, being responsible but also still under the care of mum and dad.

It’s also a film designed more for the kids. While there were moments of humour for the adults (mostly from the smaller asides), most of the jokes and the story itself will appeal to the kids. There aren’t really any examples of the film reaching the level where both children and adults can enjoy, like in the superior films of Pixar. That’s not to say Ice Age isn’t good. It would take a near-perfect film to reach the level of those aforementioned animation behemoths.

The problem that stops the film from being better is its simplicity. If the characters were looked at in deeper terms, with perhaps an inkling of growth, the film might be able to truly appeal to everyone. The dramatic beats are very much by the numbers, so there’s no emotional investment. I doubt the characters have evolved much from the first film, which makes their stories matter less. Oh, except for the other story. The epic tale of Scrat.

Everyone knows Scrat. From the beginning, he was the true star of the series. There’s still part of me that would pay to see a film dedicated to him. Obviously he works best within the confines of the Ice Age series, as opposed to a stand alone feature, because you know what’ll happen. The poor guy never gets the nut.

Presented in these short snippets, the film abandons its already shaky notions of reality and reaches a new level of fun that is present throughout the rest of the film, but is weighed down by the need for a cohesive story. Scrat’s more like the sketch comedian. Every so often he comes along and makes everyone laugh with the same old routine. And it still works.

Influencing the world and shaping it to be the one we know and love, Scrat somehow finds himself accidentally creating sights and wonders we all know and never visit. He smashes through the ground and creates the Sphinx, complete with… well, lacking in, nose. He crashes into a mountain four times and creates Mount Rushmore. Which would imply America elects craggily faced Presidents based on the wisdom of the Great Rock. Which I think is a great idea. We should do our own version in the UK. Elect podgy faced officials based on what our back gardens look like and we’ll be outta all this trouble and stress in no time.

Speaking of old bastards that just want to steal all your money and run, let’s move on to the bad guys. See what I did there? That’s satire. I’m an adult now. Anyway, opposite our trio are their respective… well, opposites. We’ve got the sabre toothed tiger. We’ve got the hopeless idiot providing comedic moments.

And then we’ve got Manny’s opposite number, the deceptively large monkey who’s brains have made him leader of the bunch. A small note, which is the only reason I bought up the villains in the first place. Peter Dinklage makes a very good bad guy, all snarly and gravelly. Just thought I’d say that. The rest of them are actually quite plain and forgettable. Nick Frost as the manatee could steal scenes if he was given more than one line. And a female sabre toothed tiger? I wonder if there’ll be a love interest? Oh, but of note. Alan Tudyk’s in this!? He should really be in everything…

Another note on the characters. I don’t mind characters with sass. I’m all for sass. Sass used to be my middle name until I got old enough to change it because I thought everyone was talking about my rear end. But please, give your characters another dimension apart from sass. ‘They’re sassy.’ ‘But what else do they do? Who are they?’ ‘They’re SASSY.’ ‘Yes, but what else?’ ‘They’re… impertinent.’ ‘You’re clearly reading a thesaurus.’ ‘How’d you know that?’ ‘Because I’m a fictional character, not one of the readers. Now let’s move on.’

The senile granny shtick got old very quickly. And yes, guess what, she’s not actually senile, she just does what she wants, when she wants. Which really, is selfish. It’s not sassy. ‘Manny’s gotta get home to his wife and daughter, who are outrunning death constantly. Why are we waiting?’ ‘Granny’s decided to pretend not to notice the edge of the glacier we’re using as a boat and jump in the sea for a bath. She’s jeopardising our lives with an unfunny one liner. She’s throwing all our food into the water to feed her pet, who is apparently quite at home in the water and can get it’s own bloody food.’ I can understand a little why her family left her with Sid. It’s not that she’s old or senile, it’s that she’s a lying, using manipulator.

Wow… what a rant that was. I’m guessing the writers probably didn’t look into it in as much detail as I did. Anyway, the animation’s good. ‘Extremely good’ it says in my notes, so it must be. Thinking back to the first film, the animation’s come on in leaps and bounds. Emotion conveyed by purely computer generated characters brings us one step closer to that wonderful future where us writers can stick our words into a beautified version of ourselves, eliminating the need for actors completely. It’ll be just us and the computer nerds. The meek shall inherit the Earth.

Other elements, such as the sound design, are used to provide little moments that further the story along. It’s nothing major or attention grabbing, but these things must be mentioned because they’re what make the film that little bit better. The sound of a sonar blip as Sid is used as a periscope, for instance, just adds a thin layer of immersion and fun to proceedings.

Another side of some little moments. Due to probably the direction, there are a few moments you can see coming from quite a way off. Other moments that could’ve heightened the drama or humour are handled in a mediocre fashion. But overall, the direction works. The pacing’s good at keeping the audience (i.e. me) entertained, though somehow at the same time the one and a half hour running time seemed longer than it was.

Overall, it’s a step in the right direction. The obvious problems of making the characters and stories more episodic come with making a fourth instalment, lessening the drama involved.

It’s an entertaining family romp that looks great, and provides just enough humour and light heartedness for adults to have a decent time. But due to lack of emotion that was found in the first film, it’s only a little more than passable.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★

Matt Smith