Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, Nationwide June 19, Cert: G, Three stars
Review by GARETH NAUGHTON
THE last time we caught up with Manny and his friends, they were saddled with a godawful storyline ripped from Shrek in a film that felt cynically contrived to squeeze as much money out of parents as
Happily, the Ice Age franchise regains some of its mojo with this entertaining fourth instalment by sticking closer to the spirit of the original film.
Thankfully there are no dinosaurs in sight and the film-makers appear to have decided to brush the events of that last, terrible movie under the carpet. May they stay there unfettered for the rest of time.
A few years have passed and mammoths Manny (voiced by Ray Romano, an acquired taste seldom seen outside of America) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are parents to a teenage daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer). She is starting to show an interest in boys – the wrong kind of boys as it turns out – which creates some conflict with her father.
Unfortunately, this ruckus happens to coincide with seismic movements (caused by the perennial acorn botherer Scrat, back to his amusing best after overuse in the last film) that force the landmass that is pre-historic Earth to split up and start creating the continents as we know them today.
Manny and his mates Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) are left adrift on a piece of ice with Sid’s senile granny (Wanda Sykes) for company.
Things go from bad to worse when they find themselves captive to a group of pirates led by angry baboon Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and arrogant tiger Shira (Jennifer Lopez).
The first Ice Age movie had an anarchic streak about it borne out of the fact that it was an animated feature coming from an independent studio that was David to Pixar’s Goliath.
It was a moderate but hugely profitable hit and the sequels were as inevitable as the diminishing returns they delivered. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was a low point, a poorly conceived, desperately unfunny film that feasted on the good will of audiences but treated them with contempt.
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is a totally different kettle of fish. By ditching the contrivances and going back to the franchise’s origins – a story about three unlikely friends trying to find home – directors Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier have recaptured some of the magic that made that first film work. It’s a fun ride with a decent script that delivers a healthy dose of jokes pitched at both young and older viewers.
A pity, then, that they didn’t have enough faith in their own material not to resort to fleshing out the cast with starry names. Last time the biggest name to sign up was Hot Fuzz actor Simon Pegg.
This time out you can’t move for egos with Lopez and Dinklage jockeying for position with Sykes (a fine addition admittedly), Nick Frost, Alan Tudyk, Rebel Wilson, Heather Morris, Patrick Stewart and, bizarrely, music stars Drake and Nicki Minaj. With the exception of Sykes and Dinklage who both have a positive impact, it feels wholly unnecessary and ends up being a distraction.
It looks great and is one of those rare films where it might actually be worth catching it in 3D. The technology is best when dealing with bright scenes where it’s easy to define shapes on screen and the colour palette here is about as bright as it gets short of being luminous.
Make sure to get there early too –- the film is preceded by a sweet-natured and funny 3D short from The Simpsons about Maggie’s first day at pre-school. It also concludes with a fantastically funny sequence focussing on Scrat so don’t be tempted to leave early either. At 94 minutes long, that’s not too much to ask.
Read Gareth’s reviews of Joyful Noise and Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey in Downtown, free with Thursday’s Cork Evening Echo