Though I’ve always had a soft spot for Scrat, the squirrel thing who’s always trying to capture an acorn, I’ve never been that enthusiastic about the Ice Age movies. I saw the first and remember it as being passably funny, then skipped 2 and 3 and all the straight to DVD installments. This week Ice Age: Continental Drift (the fourth theatrical release in the series) was the only new film in my theater so my hands were kind of tied. Again, the series plucks events that are removed by millennia and plunks them into the Ice Age:
When the continent begins to break into pieces, a mammoth is separated from his family and must defeat pirates with the help of his pals to get back home again.
The mutilation of history bothered me, and so does the fact that I’ve got to see it in the more expensive 3D, which I can’t see after about ten minutes. But you know what? I actually liked this movie. The story was tight, the characters were cute, and it was funny for both kids and grown ups.
The movie starts off with a short film called The Longest Daycare. It features Maggie from the Simpsons, who goes to the Ayn Rand School for Tots (LOL!) and tries to save butterflies from the toddler equivalent of Sid the bully from Toy Story.
I like Matt Groening better now that I know he also hates Atlas Shrugged.
Obviously a lot has happened in the Ice Age series since Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) rescued a human baby. Manny’s got a wife now, Ellie (Queen Latifah) and a daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer) who considers herself part possum (what?) and is best friends with a molehawk (huh?) named Louis (Josh Gad) and wants to hang with the “cool” mammoth crowd (voiced by a bunch of pop stars).
LOUIS: You don’t want to hang with those douchenuggets. I’m much cuter.
Like in Finding Nemo Peaches (who has an unfortunate stripper name) wants to do stuff on her own but Manny won’t let her, so the movie’s solution is to have Scrat (Chris Wedge) accidentally cause the breakup of Pangaea and split Manny and his pals apart from the wife and daughter.
MANNY: It’s okay, I’ll be back in… how long is this movie? 94 minutes!
The animals left behind have to make it to the land bridge or they’ll be crushed by the approaching cliff, giving them something to do while Manny and the others are floating away on an iceberg fighting pirates and dealing with nutty Sid’s Granny (Wanda Sykes).
DIEGO: “It’s like having a child, but without any of the joy.”
The pirates come into play because being lost in the middle of the ocean is boring. Once you’ve used up the storm and the attack by a giant sea monster, there’s nothing left to do but drift and wish you had something to drink, which is not enough to hold the attention of the five year olds this movie is aimed at. Enter the monkey Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and his crew of misfits, including a white saber toothed tiger named Shira (Jennifer Lopez) who becomes Deigo’s love interest.
GRANNY: “If they kiss, I’m gonna puke.”
Most of the movie is a back-and-forth of capture, escape, and stealing from the pirates, whose booty consists of fruit and whose need to capture other “ships” (read: icebergs) is derived more from the plot’s needs than from the characters’.
So the story is really, really, simple. Get back home. Don’t get crushed. That’s the goal. There are two things, however, that make it interesting enough to watch: the dialogue and Scrat. Scrat’s story is always peripheral to the main plot involving the other animals and much more wackily cartoony. After accidentally breaking the earth apart, Scrat finds a map to the acorn treasure city of Scratlantis and spends the whole movie trying to get there. What he does when he arrives is the funniest part of the movie.
Poor Scrat. He just can’t win.
Scrat has no dialogue, only grunts and squeaks, so all the great lines go to Manny and his crew. There’s no one character that’s funnier than any of the others – all four main characters get lots of good lines. The pirate crew – not so much. I guess because we aren’t supposed to like them.
Captain Gutt, in particular looks like a trash-dump raised version of the Grinch.
So is the movie worth watching? Yes. Do go and take your children. You will all enjoy it. It’s not necessary to see it in 3D, but in my experience children will always choose 3D over not 3D. Perhaps they can see it better than us old geezers.