Besides the fact that it’s the fourth installment in a tired franchise, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” —directed by Steve Martino and Mike Thurmier—is a terrible, pathetic and utterly desperate attempt by studios to attract the kiddies to a mid-summer animated treat. The script by Michael Berg and Jason Fuchs is lazy and sloppily thrown together, the humor feels forced. The characters don’t evolve in any way and for all of the “rousing” activity that takes place during the movie; in the end the story is still incredibly thin and predictable. Here’s a movie that has no reason to exist beyond trying to make money.
To start off, the set-up feels like it was thought up in about ten minutes. Manny (Ray Romano), the oafish Woolly Mammoth is happily living with his family, his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and teenage daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer). Also in the mix are his two friends from the first three “Ice Age” movies: the dumb, clumsy sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), Diego (Dennis Leary) the sabre tooth tiger and then there is an assortment of various other prehistoric creatures like Peaches’ possum friend Ethan (Aubrey Graham).
Everything seems to be going fairly well for the most part except Manny is having some family issues. Since his daughter is a teenager she is growing up and is increasingly embarrassed to be around him. Peaches has a crush on a young wooly mammoth stud but Manny is too protective of her and doesn’t want her to date. So they get in an argument and—get this—in a fury she says she “never wants to see him again.” Yep, that’s right. Father-daughter issues. That’s the epitome of the emotion that “Continental Drift” provides. Oh yeah, there’s also a scene where Ellie gives Peaches the “don’t ever lose sight of who you are” speech, followed by Peaches—in an attempt to impress the wooly stud and the other mammoth teen girls—calling Ethan a freak and pretending not to know him. Is that really all the writers could come up with?
Anyway, following the feud, the land starts to crack up due to continental drift. Manny is separated from his family on a small patch of land that floats off in the water. It just so happens Diego and Sid are also on the patch of land and this leads them on a wacky adventure—involving ships made out of icebergs and pirates led by an ape-man-thing—to try and get home.
OK, I can see why Manny is in this movie. He has to come back to his family and make up with Peaches and learn that your kids will grow up and blah, blah, blah, but Diego and Sid serve almost no purpose. Diego could be cut out of the movie entirely and nothing would change. And Sid, well, I guess he’s just there for comic relief. During the journey he messes a lot of stuff up. Other than that though, I think they’re mostly just there for brand reasons.
The other thing that bothered me the most about “Ice Age” is that Martino and Thurmier don’t have enough faith in their main characters to move the story along and provide enough laughter. So they throw in little comic diversions every which way in a pitiful attempt to suck up the laughs and add more fat to the plot. Like Sid’s old, senile grandmother played by Wanda Sykes, or at one point the gang encounters an island filled with an army of cute little squirrel creatures who do “Braveheart” impressions. Worst of all is the nervous, twitchy squirrel named Scrat, who’s been in every film and who’s always on a constant crusade to find acorns but somehow gets screwed over. The character adds nothing to central story, beyond even more comic relief. If Martino and Thurmier really wanted to keep beating this long dead horse then they would have been better off putting him at the beginning, giving him his own little film. But instead he shows up throughout, interfering with the story.
Based on the successes of the last three “Ice Age” movies (that’s why they’ve made a fourth one after all) I wouldn’t be surprised if this one made a lot of money too. It has bright colors and goofy looking characters with funny voices that should keep little kids mildly entertained. But I really hope it doesn’t.