Ten years and four movies in and that thing, whatever it is supposed to be, still can’t eat that dang acorn. What’s up with that? Shouldn’t it have starved to death by now? I guess in a world where animals talk, mammoths hang upside down from trees, saber-toothed tigers prefer fresh fruit over fresh meat and apes command pirate ships, anything is possible. Of course we are talking ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’, which I’m thinking just might be the best of the lot so far.
The theory, thanks to German geologist Alfred Wegner, is that the lands of the planet were once one big mass until some seismic event caused them to drift apart. Right now, Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), his woman Ellie (Queen Latifah), daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) who has grown into a teenager, Diego the vegetarian Tiger (Dennis Leary) and Sid the screw-up Sloth (John Leguizamo) all live on this big old mass and life is swell. But then, without warning the masses start to break apart. Wegner and his cronies had no idea what caused this to happen, but now we know that Scrat and his chase of that cursed acorn is what caused the Continental Drift. Mystery solved.
The problem is that Manny, Diego and Sid were on one side of the ice while it was breaking apart, with everybody else, including Ellie and Peaches, being on the other side. Now our three heroes are cast out to sea on a little burg without a paddle, while all the other animals are scrambling for their lives as the encroaching land mass chases them down to crush them to death. Oh my.
Not surprisingly being cast out to languish at sea was easy part for Manny, Diego and Sid. And Sid’s Granny, voice provided by the lovely chalkboard scratching tones of Wanda Sykes. Eventually our team will make the acquaintance of Captain Gut the evil pirate (Peter Dinklage), complete with his own theme song, and his crew of never do well miscreants, including a lovely first mate Saber-toothed tiger in Shira (Jennifer Lopez) with the cutest little fangs. Anyway, your choice with Captain Gut, who is one mean simian, is to join up or die. Manny has a family that he promised to return to so he declines the invite and adventure summarily ensues.
Back at the moving land mass, it’s not looking good for the fleeing animals but Peaches is mainly worried about her love life and the hot young mammoth Ethan, voiced by Aubrey Graham better known to most as the popstar Drake. Ethan didn’t like that another mammoth was checking out his girl so he threw a coconut across the way, hit some muskrat in the head with it and a whole wild animal brawl broke out! It was bananas! Okay, so that didn’t really happen, but it would’ve been funny if it did.
Regardless, Manny and crew are risking life from limb to make it back home, Captain Gut is in hot pursuit because he doesn’t like to be messed with, Diego is in love, Sid is screwing up and nothing is much better back home since home is being destroyed even as we speak. Somehow though I believe that faith in friends and family will trump all of these tribulations.
I’ve never been a big fan of the ‘Ice Age’ series of film, though I did get some enjoyment from the last one ‘Ice Age 3: Meltdown’, but the fact is it is difficult for me to be too terribly critical of any of these super cartoons because ultimately they are kids films and the children almost uniformly love all of them. Which is why they will keep making them because parents need something to take their kids too. That being said, the fact remains that Blue Sky studios and Fox have consistently fallen short of what Dreamworks and of course the 500 pound gorilla in the room Pixar / Disney have given us. Until this year. Yeah, I’m saying it. ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ is actually more entertaining than Pixar studios ‘Brave’. Not necessarily in artistry, because nothing really can touch Lassiter and company when it comes to that, but just raw entertainment value. We could probably attribute this hiccup in the universe, a temporary one I’m sure, to ‘Brave’ being arguably the most rudimentary Pixar animated film to date, but also because this episode of ‘Ice Age’, at least to me, was so much better than the ones that came before it.
True enough, Romano, Leary and Latifah still aren’t the most scintillating voice actors around, but this episode of Ice Age gets by on some genuinely effective humor, a lot of it provided by Leguizamo’s Sid the sloth, and Wanda Sykes once you get past the sound of her voice, which some might not be able to do. Plus the adventures that Sid, Manny and Diego are dealing with are truly adventurous, not to mention the tried and tested crutches of friendship and family, which actually feel authentic and not some forced upon, tacked on plot points.
‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ is solid entertainment for the whole family, not just the kids this time around, and Peter Dinklage’s Captain Gut is plenty mean but at least not he’s not all that scary. Unlike those bears in ‘Brave’ which were downright horrifying. And Pixar can set things right in the universe by just making another ‘Incredibles’ movie, but who am I to tell those folks what to do?