July 13, 2012

THE SHOWBUZZDAILY REVIEW: “Ice Age: Continental Drift”


ICE AGE:  CONTINENTAL DRIFT – Watch It At Home – The CSI of Family Franchises Does Its Thing


You know what the fabulous Peter Dinklage never gets to do on Game of Thrones?  Sing!  That’s remedied in the new 3D animated ICE AGE:  CONTINENTAL DRIFT, where as the voice of monkey pirate Captain Gutt, he gets to lead a chorus in praise of his own evil.  (What he lacks in vocal prowess, he makes up in verve–he could be a terrific Henry Higgins.)

The Ice Age franchise is like one of those CBS procedurals that runs for 10 years without anyone noticing.  Continental Drift is the 4th in the series, which is a reliable hit in the US, but fantastically successful overseas:  in the US, the 3 pictures to date have each made $175-200M, but internationally the numbers have more than tripled, with Ice Age 3 grossing almost $700M outside the US.   Audiences know exactly what to expect from the series, and they get exactly what they’re paying for.

Each movie is centered around the makeshift prehistoric family formed by woolly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), saber-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), their increasingly extended, multi-species tribe, and their misadventures.  Cheerfully anachronistic (the new movie includes a gag where even Sid can’t understand how they were able to encounter dinosaurs in the last movie), but embracing family values, the stories usually involve some subgroup having to be reunited with the overall clan.  Running on a more surreal and mostly parallel track to the main story are the more anarchic tales of Scrat, a squirrelly thing who can cause an immense amount of havoc in his eternal, obsessive chase for acorns.

As anyone knows who’s seen a family movie from 20th Century Fox in the past few months and sat through the series of Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up featurettes, most of which are integrated into Continental Drift, this time Scrat has unwittingly caused the separation of the earth’s continents.   This leads to avalanches and earthquakes; the land where Manny, his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) and the rest of the gang live is ripped apart, and Manny, Diego, and Sid, along with Sid’s Granny (Wanda Sykes), have to make their way back to the rest of the group.  This brings them to the attention of Captain Gutt and his motley crew, which includes a seal, a kangaroo, a bunny rabbit, and most notably the female saber-toothed tiger Shira (Jennifer Lopez), finally giving Diego a romantic interest.

The pace set by directors Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier is swift, and while the visual design doesn’t have the kind of rich detail we get from Pixar, or even the bright imagination of DreamWorks’ Madagascar series, there’s plenty of spectacle, with giant ice floes being used as ships by Captain Gutt and our heroes, all manner of cute creatures on land and in the sea (including some sirens, wandering in from a completely different mythology), and storms as well as the continental unheavals.  The 3D is above-average, despite the usual sacrifice in image brightness.  The script by Michael Berg and Jason Fuchs keeps a steady flow of chuckles going, although the energy level flags whenever the story cuts back to Ellie and Peaches, since the latter has to learn dreary Life Lessons about who her real friends are–not the cool mammoths voiced by Drake, Nicki Minaj and Heather Morris, but her stalwart, if funny looking, old buddy mole played by Josh Gad, who’s always there for her (these scenes are a good time for a soda or popcorn refill). In the main plot, though, Romano, Leary, Leguizamo, Sykes and Dinklage are more than capable of keeping things lively.

There’s nothing surprising in Ice Age:  Continental Drift, nor is there intended to be.  It’s comfort food, another reasonably well-made product put on the family entertainment conveyor belt, and parents will be grateful for 90 minutes that should hold their youngsters’ attention while having a few references (a recycled bit from Return of the Jedi here, a Braveheart gag there) to make them smile.  Plus Fox, in its infinite generosity, has provided a bonus for everyone:  a delightful Simpsons short subject called The Longest Daycare, which features Maggie, a unibrow, and not one but two Ayn Rand jokes.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."