This one has pirates!
After those pesky dinosaurs, the heterogeneous herd has to deal with a whole new threat as the continents begin to break off – separating Manny from his family and sending him on an adventure upon the high seas. Ice Age series has been trundling along, steering clear of the progress made by other studios in terms of mature storytelling or photorealistic graphics. Instead, the films to date have been content to deliver some colourful characters and jokes pitched at younger viewers, while keeping things brief and breezy enough to not aggravate grown ups.
This trend continues with Continental Drift, the latest film in a franchise which has made almost $2 billion worldwide to date. The story is simple and not overly interesting, the characters continue to plough the furrows they’ve been tilling for a decade and, of course, Scrat pops in from time to time for some slapstick comic relief.
But there have been some changes this time, perhaps due to the presence of new directors Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier – taking over from long time helmer Carlos Saldanha, who has moved on to Rio. Most notably, Ice Age 4 is more absurd than the previous entries – something you’ll notice from Scrat’s introductory scene. While his sketches have always pushed the films towards Tex Avery style theatrics, these opening moments see the prehistoric rat thing falling down to the earth’s core which he cranks like a trackball in his acorn lust – carving out the continents with his feet.
It’s a bizarre moment and a level of scale that the film never quite lives up to again, but feels quite fitting in a movie which goes on to pit our heroes against a crew of salty sea dog pirates. That’s right, Ice Age has jumped on the pirate fascination (a half decade too late I might add) to throw a bunch of unusual creatures onto a massive hunk of ice and have them do naval battle to get back home.
It’s a fun idea, carving a new identity for the film with the first real tangible villain of the series in the form of Captain Gut – voiced with vigour by the marvellous Peter Dinklage. But, like many moments throughout the Ice Age franchise, this piratical addition never quite reaches its full potential to entertain, with the story never focussing on the conflict between the opposing ships or really conjuring up much in the way of genre required material – bar an appalling sea shanty. The film even manages to squander the addition of an army of cute chipmunk things – missing the opportunity to embrace these Ewok like characters by manning a ship with them and adding some character to proceedings.Ice Age 4’s charms aren’t increased by one of the dullest voice casts around – when a lisping John Leguizamo is one of the best things in the movie, you know you’re in trouble. There are some decent names in here, including Seann William Scott, Jennifer Lopez, Alan Tudyk, Aziz Ansari and Nick Frost but most are wasted, bar Dinklage who’s having a whale of a time as an unusually devilish villain.Continental Drift is a predictably middle of the road animation – the CG is decent but not overly detailed, the humour induces chuckles rather than guffaws and the 3D is agreeably bright but rarely noticeable. The slightly new direction for the story is a welcome one, though the best material is squandered in favour of familiar moments. Ultimately, it’s an entertaining, if utterly forgettable, experience.
Since debuting in 2002, the