"ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT" (2012) (voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo) (PG)
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Animated action: As their environment becomes increasingly unstable due to continental drift, the mammoth, tiger, and sloth from the first three "Ice Age" movies become separated from their herd (i.e. their family and friends).
Scrat's (voice of CHRIS WEDGE) pursuit of his beloved acorn accidentally sets in motion a global continental drift that separates Manny the mammoth (voice of RAY ROMANO) from his wife, Ellie (voice of QUEEN LATIFAH), and daughter Peaches (voice of KEKE PALMER). Pushed out to sea on a broken-off piece of land, he is joined on his quest to get back to his family by old friends Diego, the loner tiger (voice of DENIS LEARY); Sid, the put-upon sloth (voice of JOHN LEGUIZAMO); and Sid's senile Granny (voice of WANDA SYKES).
They run afoul of some bad animals who fashion themselves pirates of the high seas. They are led by ape Captain Gutt (voice of PETER DINKLAGE) and his second-in-command, a rogue tigress named Shira (voice of JENNIFER LOPEZ). They dream only of conquest and want to add Manny and his great strength to their motley crew.
Meanwhile, Peaches uses her journey to try and get close to a jock-like young mammoth named Ethan (voice of AUBREY GRAHAM, whose stage name is DRAKE). But he runs with a cool crowd who tells her to ditch her best friend, Louis (voice of JOSH GAD), a noble possum who loves her from afar. All the while, Scrat continues his pursuit of the elusive acorn.
OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
You know a franchise series is starting to run out of gas when you're sitting in the audience and the little five- and six-year-olds around you recognize the movies this one is ripping off. During my recent preview of "Ice Age: Continental Drift," what looked like a little 6-year-old boy behind me kept whispering to his mom: "Hey, they're just like the Ewoks in 'Return of the Jedi'" and "That monkey thinks he's Captain Jack from 'Pirates of the Caribbean.'"
I briefly thought of looking back and seeing if the lad in any way resembled Yours Truly. 'Cause you never know! But, uh, he was probably just a budding film nerd whose momma had used the DVD player one too many times as a baby sitter. Nevertheless, I wanted to crawl back there with him and point out all of the scene cribs from "Jedi," "Pirates," "The Abyss," "The Perfect Storm," "The Last of the Mohicans," "Braveheart." The list goes on.
Look, I like the "Ice Age" flicks for one reason and one reason only. Scrat! I love that little fur ball and his long-running, existential quest for his elusive acorn. I struggle every day, every week, and every month to get that proverbial nut. So, I identify with every little scream, every little grunt, every little failure, and every little triumph he has in grabbing hold and retaining possession of that glowing acorn. The victories are always short-lived. It's really just a 21st century reimagining of the Coyote-Road Runner dynamic of Looney Tunes lore. But it works. All the other scenes with Ray Romano's Manny the mammoth, Denis Leary's Diego the tiger, and John Leguizamo's Sid the sloth are just filler between the saga of Scrat.
Scrat puts the events of this film into motion, triggering a global continental land crack-up and drift that endangers the life of the three aforementioned characters and their loved ones. Separated from the herd, the trio and Sid's senile Granny (voice of Wanda Sykes) run afoul of an ape pirate captain (voiced with great flair by Peter Dinklage of "Game of Thrones") and his ragtag crew of crooks and cutthroats. Meanwhile, Manny's wife Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah) is forced to lead the herd back on land to a safe spot all the while dealing with the angst of her teenage daughter, Peaches (voice of Keke Palmer), who is in love with a bad boy mammoth and yearns to fit in with the popular crowd.
That B plot is tedious and worthy of at least a dozen eye rolls. But the main story of Manny's quest to be reunited with his family and avoid being recruited by the pirates to serve as some sorely needed muscle in their efforts to pillage and plunder is moderately involving (especially if you remember a key plot point from the first film that had Manny remembering his first wife and family being slaughtered by savage hunters).
The film is also worth seeing on the big screen for the charming animated short film that precedes it featuring baby Maggie Simpson of TV's "The Simpsons" trying to survive the daycare center from Hell. I won't give much away. But I will say that the final scene of the short film and the final scenes of the main film are absolutely inspired. And, yes, the final scene of "Continental Drift" does indeed involve Scrat. Where he ends up and the choice he has to make and what happens after he makes that choice is just sublime. I am still laughing at one particular play on words.
This isn't a great afternoon at the movies with your kids, folks. But there is entertainment value here. And unlike "Brave," at least it probably won't traumatize the little ones. I rate it a modest 5.5 out of 10. Get my "Drift?" (T. Durgin)