Ice Age: Continental Drift Review: All About Scrat (& More Lovable Than Brave)
In a summer of sequels, it comes as a great relief that the latest Ice Age movie is much more endurable than the latest piece of crap Madagascar film. As it happens, Continental Drift also demonstrates a little bit of heart and a great sense of adventure that exceeds that of its predecessors. Much of the action takes place out on the open water, and pirates (almost) always make children's films better, right? The story, with its familiar characters not wearing out their welcome just yet, is quite endearing but also quick-paced and plot driven as well.
The Ice Age franchise has never been known for its historical accuracy by any stretch. Hell, the last installment freely and unapologetically allowed dinosaurs to mingle with mammoths, and this time, they're fucking with geography. Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge) the scenery-chewing Squirrel-Rat is still around, and this time he's the major plot mover. In this story, Scrat's never-ending quest for the Acorn of Doom sets off a chain reaction that results in the splitting of supercontinent Pangea in quite a dramatic fashion. Naturally, all of the global seismic shift that actually occurred over millions of years ends up occupying the temporal space of about five minutes within this movie. Yes, it's pretty stupid stuff, but the suspension of disbelief has always been a hefty one when it comes to this franchise. Fortunately, watching the planet tear itself apart is also quite entertaining as well.
When all of the planetary fallout goes down, Manny (Ray Romano) the Mammoth ends up separated from his wife, Ellie (Queen Latifah), and wayward daughter, Peaches (Nicki Minaj), as he floats away on a chunk of ice. Luckily, his buddies Sid (John Leguizamo) the Sloth and Diego (Denis Leary) the Sabertooth Tiger are also along for the ride. Back at home, Peaches is not only distressed that her father has disappeared but that she had also acted like a total brat to him immediately before he was sucked out to the high seas. So there's a bit of character development to be had along the way but not so much that the movie gets preachy with it.
In addition the usual suspects who've been around during the other installments, a few new characters show up as well. Most memorably, the story provides for Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage, who is just amazing here), a simian pirate king and villainous presence who commandeers his own ice-constructed ship. A not-too-distant second place goes to Sid's Granny (Wanda Sykes) and her pursuit of a mysterious Precious. In addition, Diego receives a bit of a love interest in Shira (Jennifer Lopez), who only exists to add more celebrity voice dollars to the payroll. C'mon, Diego doesn't need a damn love interest -- he's a lone wolf. At least Scrat knows better (this time around) than to fall for a beautiful Siren masquerading as a female Scrat. Yes, this is not only a movie that encapsulates millions of years of plate tectonics but also includes pirates and shameless Homer references. It's a mess, but it's a pleasant ride.
Visually speaking (and I didn't spring for the 3-D), this Ice Age also looks better than the others. Each character looks quite relatively realistic (with incredible fur detail) for animation, and the ice looks slick enough upon which to slide. Ordinarily, this would also be the moment when I'd issue some rote advice about how if you liked the other movies, you'll like this one too; and if you hated them, then this one would drive you insane. At this point, however, I find myself liking Continental Drift somewhat more than its predecessors. Yes, this is an inane franchise, and all children must be reminded to not take the historical timeline fudging seriously. Still, it's far less offensive than much of the other crap shoveled into theaters under the guise of children's entertainment. In the past few years since the third installment's release, the bar has fallen for kiddie flicks to the point where even the latest Pixar movie fails to impress from a storytelling standpoint. So in comparison, Ice Age is holding steady and even improving its game. The movie never pretends to be what it isn't, and it doesn't resort to butt humor like Brave did either. Did I actually enjoy a Blue Skies Studios movie more than a Pixar movie? Yeah, I did.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.