More than 10 years after the first movie hit theaters, the arrival of “Ice Age: Continental Drift” will hopefully mark the extinction of a worn-out franchise. This “fourquel” may be brief and slightly comical to youngsters, but “Continental Drift” is a frequently tedious ride through uninspired territory.
The action unfolds when a piece of the enormous Pangaea continent breaks off, separating wooly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano) from his family, but not without company from his sloth pal Sid (John Leguizamo) and saber-toothed tiger friend Diego (Denis Leary). While at sea, they are forced to combat a giant ape named Gutt (“Game of Thrones’” Peter Dinklage) and his vicious (yet entirely harmless) pirate crew.
The formulaic plot contains very few surprises and highly conventional characterizations. The minute saber-toothed Shira (Jennifer Lopez) pounces on screen, one can easily map out her narrative: She initially feels apprehensive about the protagonists, slowly becomes soft-hearted, realizes that the pirates do not treat her like family and fights Gutt in order to protect her new friends.
Another storyline highlights Manny’s daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) and her struggle to fit in with the “cool” crowd. After a little advice from her mother (Queen Latifah) and realizing whom her true friends are, Peaches is much happier when she decides just to be herself.
“Continental Drift” hits audiences upside the head with its themes proclaiming the importance of family and accepting others for who they are. While such ideas always ring pertinent, they have been carried out with much more creativity in recent animated films like “The Secret World of Arrietty” and even the lackluster “Brave.”
Not that the “Ice Age” franchise has ever been that original to begin with. It is remarkable that such uncharismatic and humdrum characters have warranted three sequels, aside from the saber-toothed squirrel Scrat, who is always a welcome presence with his ravenous misadventures. Aside from a few clever gags with an elderly sloth’s pet and numerous temptations from mythical sirens, the writing feels second-rate and does not provide any intelligent humor parents might enjoy.
The film looks nice but is nothing that we have not seen done much better in Pixar or DreamWorks Animation movies. The defrosting landscapes are picturesque, but the action sequences are rudimentary in their animation quality. If it were not for the 3D, it seems like this movie would have fit in quite easily as a television or direct-to-DVD release.
The highlight of “Continental Drift” is its impressive lineup of both veteran and new voice talent that turn up throughout the film. Television personalities like Aziz Asnari and Heather Morris make small cameos alongside pop stars Nicki Minaj and Drake as Peaches’ mammoth friends. Their collective 10 lines of dialogue may not be the sole reason to see the film but are certainly fun to hear.
It is understandable to see why 20th Century Fox went ahead with “Continental Drift”—after all, 2009’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time with nearly $900 million in its coffers. Although that movie was very poorly received by most critics, it was still successful, which could easily be the case for “Continental Drift.” With “Brave” slowly dipping and “The Dark Knight Rises” set to rule the box office for weeks to come, there is not going to be kid’s fare until the next “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” installment in August.
There is not a whole lot to like about “Continental Drift,” but not all that much to hate either. In light of the recent heat wave across the nation, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” is a fine way to cool off for an easy 1 hour and 20 minutes, but has about as much staying power as the prehistoric creatures that go through the motions of its dull story.