When the first Ice Age movie came out no one was expecting much from it. The first time I saw it, I was thinking it would be just an alright mainly-for-little-kids movie. I was pleasantly surprised. At that time, Pixar was starting to establish itself as the far superior animated film maker. With Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and their latest effort at the time, Monsters, Inc., other animated movies paled in comparison. Against the odds, Ice Age, while not surpassing Pixar, managed to be funny, smart, and entertaining. I loved the first one. Then, to my great disappointment, the follow-up to that first effort turned out to be a generic just-for-kids sequel. The third in the franchise (I wasn’t looking forward to seeing it, but I have a little brother who insisted.) turned out to be an improvement on the second, but still didn’t live up to the promise of the first. When I heard a fourth Ice Age was in the works, I cringed at the thought of having to sit through it. I went in with an open mind, though – determined to give it a chance. In the end, this latest at-bat left me with the same feeling as the second – a generic just-for-kids sequel again. Oh well, film making is a business after all. I imagine this was put together solely as a money making effort. Some bright spots were still there though.
Scrat’s pursuit of the accursed acorn goes awry and has major consequences, resulting in a continental cataclysm. Of course, this propels Manny, Sid, and Diego on yet another challenging adventure together. In the wake of the global upheavals, Sid reunites with his Granny. More danger ensues when they encounter a ragtag band of seafaring pirates determined to stop them from returning home.
The direction is on auto pilot throughout. The same can be said about the script – nothing inspiring… Saturday morning cartoon fare storytelling. The script doesn’t hit the lows of The Last Airbender, but it doesn’t seem to even put forth an attempt to rise above the most basic of requirements. The jokes are bland and, for the most part, fall flat. The only thing that saves some of the jokes, is the performances of the voice talent – the actors. They seem to have given it their best shot, although they didn’t get a lot to work with. The plot in this Ice Age is more adventure-filled, but the writers could have come up with better ideas. In the end, what makes a good story is a good script and this just wasn’t a good script. The sole memorable think was some of the lines written for Sid’s grandmother.
The best thing in the movie, by far, are the characters. No matter the problems with uneven writing and plot quality throughout all four films of the franchise, the performances of the main characters have carried the films. We have come to know their personalities and mannerisms. And, most importantly, each of the main actor has managed to add depth to their characters. Watching these characters (Manny, Sid, Scrat, Diego, Ellie, Crash and Eddie) interact is the reason we still care about these movies. Without the charm and personality injected into the main roles, we would have stopped caring about this bunch a long time ago. I am surprised that the film makers didn’t build on this strength. Romano and company really have created a group of beloved characters – I certainly love them all and my kid brother squeals with delight when they play off one another. The granny was a nice addition.
Ray Ramono brings the same thing to the table that he always has with this character. Although his character goes through the most changes (and not always for the better), his voice conveys a certain quality that reminds and reassures us that he’s the same loveable good-hearted character, deep down, and he won’t let us down. Denis Leary and John Leguizamo provide similar rock steady performances. I enjoy Leguizamo a lot because he handles the annoying Sid well. A character like that could easily get tiresome, but that Leguizamo managers to keep his performance from crossing that line. Queen Latifah has grown into her part over the series and does a fine job, but I could imagine many other actresses voicing her role. Seann William Scott brings so much life to his roles as Crash and Eddie that he’s inspiring. I have to repeat that this is the one true and consistent strength of the Ice Age franchise – the voice cast. It is truly superb and they all fit the personalities of their characters perfectly.
A very close second to the characters and voice performances, is the animation quality of Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D. I can only describe it as fantastic. Everything looks great and scene after scene dishes up plenty of great eye-candy. Some scenes will actually have you whispering, “wow” under your breath. This is animation at its technical best. Although the writing is sorely lacking, there are visual gags aplenty. They were hit and miss, but there were enough that made me chuckle, and a few that got a good laugh out of me, that the movie was entertaining.
I was hoping Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D would breathe new life into the franchise and raise it to a Pixar-ish level – establishing a better foundation for more sequels. It didn’t reach that mark. I’m sure there will be more sequels and they’ll serve up a predictable brand of entertainment for kids. It’s disappointing, though, because, for the lack of good writing, this series wastes the potential of the actors’ superb performances and the excellent production values of the animation. I think the studio is just being lazy because they can “bank” on the actors’ efforts to draw in the audience – like they know they have great characters, so they’ve decided they don’t need to invest the money in better writing. decided to do nothing with them. This easily joins the second Ice Age at the bottom of this franchise.
I wanted to love this Ice Age. I did get some enjoyment out of it though. For kids, it is a sure bet crowd pleaser. Overall, I’d say it’s worth a rental if you love the franchise already and it might be worth going to the theater if you have little kids (below 10) with you. The much better animated movie of the summer though is, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.