Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier
Stars: voices of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Peter Dinklage, Wanda Sykes, Jennifer Lopez, Seann William Scott, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Rebel Wilson, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk, Patrick Stewart, Alain Chabat, Aziz Ansari, Joy Behar, Josh Peck.
The animated Ice Age series reaches its fourth episode, but there are signs that the franchise is quickly running out of ideas and inspiration after some ten years.
Here our three central characters Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the sabre tooth tiger (Denis Leary) and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) find themselves trapped on a floating block of ice after a cataclysmic disruption to the earth’s surface causes the continents to drift apart. This upheaval was, apparently, caused by Scrat’s obsession with chasing the elusive acorn. The 2010 short Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up delivers the superb opening sequence. Meanwhile, Manny’s wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and his precocious teenage daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) have been stranded on a landlocked mass of ice.
The castaways must find a way to be reunited. As they drift across the ocean, the three heroes run afoul of a band of prehistoric pirates, led by the grizzled orang-utan Captain Gutt (voiced with great relish by Peter Dinklage). There are several confrontations between them, which become a little repetitive and tiresome after a while. Along the way, Diego finds romance with white tiger Shira (Jennifer Lopez). Sid is reunited with his cantankerous toothless granny (Wanda Sykes).
The regular cast has returned – after all, animation is easy work for the actors – and they bring a familiar affection for their characters. Their ranks have been bolstered by the likes of Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Rebel Wilson (A Few Best Men, etc), who plays a prehistoric kangaroo, Alan Tudyk, Josh Gad (star of the Broadway hit The Book Of Morman), and even Patrick Stewart.
The humour this time around lacks the sophisticated with of the first couple of films in the series, and is aimed more at younger audiences who will appreciate some of the more physical stuff. Visually the CGI animation is still impressive, and some sequences make good use of the 3D process. This is probably the best looking of the four films in the franchise.
Directors Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier have previously collaborated on a couple of short films featuring Scrat, and are familiar with the characters and the tone of the series. They keep things moving at a fair pace. As usual, the best bits centre around the squirrel Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge) and his acorn-chasing antics. Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is ideal for the whole family, although younger viewers will find more to enjoy here than older audiences.
As a bonus, Ice Age Continental Drift is accompanied by the superior short animated Simpsons film The Longest Daycare, in which baby Maggie finds herself fending off a menacing bully while in Springfield’s Ayn Rand daycare centre.