I’ve never covered up the fact that the Ice Age series has been the black mark on my list of good CG animated films. There was always something about the characters, their emotions, and their “family” dynamic that just never clicked. Now that we’re in the fourth film, it looks like a lot of those issues have been ironed out but are they just replaced by a newer list of nastiness?
Manny and the gang get separated from the herd when Scrat inadvertantly cause the great continental drift. Now floating along the high seas on their Icey life raft, they must return to their loved ones but the appearance of pirates makes this a challenge that even they might not walk away from.
Blue Sky have definitely decided to play it safe, leaving the tested Ice Age plot standing yet again for a third encore, then again, why walk away from a money making scheme like that? Fortunately the characters, unlike the story, have been tightened up and for once I didn’t feel like roasting the cast on a spit braai out of frustration – perhaps they’ve just matured out of the frustrating gags that they were first given (even Sid, the biggest culprit wasn’t as nauseatingly incorrigible as he usually is).
Continental Drift introduces a menagerie of new characters into the fray in the form of the Captain Gutt and his pirate crew – this element is probably the weakest of the whole film, the characters just aren’t very interesting. The worst part is that the supporting voice cast have much more potential than the characters they were portraying. We’ve seen Peter Dinklage excel with his multi-layered performance in Game of Thrones but as Gutt, he just seems shoehorned in to give the film a little more star power.
It might not be laughs a minute but Ice Age 4 has a generous amount of humour written in that isn’t from the trailer (which is good because the material from the trailer was just…sad). Admittedly it tries too hard at times but for kids and adults, there is some form of comedic amusement to be had which usually leans towards the slapstick arena.
It’s a no brainer that Ice Age 4 will appeal to kids primarily – bright colours, non-stop action, and more 3D effects than you can shake a strained eyeball at. However, audiences with a more discerning tast (or even just accompanying parents) will grow tired of the style of humour about half way through – it’s still enjoyable but lacks the charm of Pixar or the wit of Dreamworks.
On a side note, if you only like Ice Age because of Scrat – the obsessive/compulsive prehistoric squirrel thing – then have no fear, you’ll be taking home leftovers from all the Scrat that they pass out on Continental Drift.
The Bottom Line
Ice Age 4 doesn’t put the franchise any higher on my list, the characters have been refined but the new antagonists and supporting characters aren’t convincing nor emotionally compelling. The story is more of the same as well, what is different is the pacing which as been cranked up to breakneck speed to ensure that young eyes don’t stray – this of course is all wrapped up in a kiddy-centric 3D treatment which ensures that objects thrown into the screen will be the most interesting thing you didn’t see. It’s still fun and probably the best of the series for both kids and adults.
It could be argued that the best part of Ice Age 4 is the short film that precedes it – a Simpsons themed short that puts Maggie in the front line as the new toddler in daycare who has been sorted into the “average intelligence” side of the institute. This entertaining little sequence plays out like a silent film and squeezes out more laughs than the main feature.