Ice Age: Continental Drift

If you enjoy Spongebob Squarepants, think chicken tenders with fries is the perfect dinner, and look forward to summer because school’s out, Ice Age: Continental Drift is squarely in your wheelhouse.

If none of that applies to you, you may not even know that this is the fourth film in the franchise– a franchise that got its start way back when Dubya was still in the White House. And though you may be amused periodically, you’ll probably find yourself wishing your kids just wanted to see Brave again instead.

Continental Drift picks up sixteen or so years after 2009’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. We know this because baby Peaches, born at the end of that film to mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah), is now a teenager (and voiced by True Jackson, VP‘s Keke Palmer).

Aside from that, nothing has changed. Scrat’s still on his endless search for acorns, saber-toothed Diego (Denis Leary) and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) are still hanging with Manny, and the idiotic possum twins, Crash and Eddie, are still providing the comic relief.

This go-round, Scrat’s antics have caused the Pangaea to break apart and continents to form. And as it happens, one of the cracks happens in the exact spot where Manny and Ellie are standing, catastrophically separating them from each other and starting the rather pedestrian plot of Continental Drift on its way.

Along with the split stories of Manny, Diego, and Sid trying to get back to Ellie and Peaches, we also have Peaches’ typical-teenager rebelliousness (she wants to hang with the cool crowd and only realizes how much she loves her dad after he’s pulled halfway away across the ocean on a tiny iceberg).

There are some new characters, in the form of this episode’s ‘bad guys’– a band of pirates led by prehistoric ape named Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and his first mate, a female saber-tooth named Shira (Jennifer Lopez), but none of them give the movie a pulse quite like Simon Pegg’s Buck did in Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

Beyond that, Continental Drift doesn’t really bring anything new to the franchise. Sure there’s the occasional bit-part, celebrity voice to keep things mildly interesting (pop stars Drake and Nicki Minaj are cool-kid mammoths who Peaches wants to run with), but nothing here would put the movie even close to being on par with any of the other kid-friendly fare this summer.

Directors Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier offer some nice 3D moments, and the artwork is solid, particularly whenever you get a look at details (visions of Gutt’s gnarly chompers will stay in your head for a while), but the script by Ice Age vet Michael Berg and first-timer Jason Fuchs is sometimes trite, sometimes slow as a glacier, and sometimes just downright odd (a third of the way in, Gutt and his crew burst into song for the movie’s one and only musical number).

Poor, miserable Scrat, though, is among the film’s more winning moments. His pursuit of acorns makes Wile E. Coyote look respectable, and it begs the question– why doesn’t Blue Sky Studios just give him his own movie?

In the meantime, it may just be time to let the Ice Age franchise become extinct.

3/5 stars