Ice Age: Continental Drift
The world might not have needed another "Ice Age", but at least this one is entertaining. "Continental Drift" is the fourth entry in the franchise about a makeshift family of wooly mammoths and sabretooths and other cute talking extinct animals; and the ride is enjoyable enough even if it’s a road we’ve been down many times before.
But this isn’t "Brave", there’s no reason to hit the theaters unless you have some pre-teens begging you to take them - no self-respecting adult is going to be happy about paying $13+ dollars (yes, it’s another barely noticeable 3-D presentation done to justify a surcharge) for a film with this many puke jokes.
Now ten years after the original installment, the main characters have basically receded into a sitcom-style setup. Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are having trouble connecting with their daughter Peaches, who’d rather flirt with boys (like a mammoth played by rapper Drake) than live within their restrictions.
This is probably because she feels ostracized by the other female mammoths, including one voiced by rapper Nicki Minaj. Because when you think Nicki Minaj, you think children’s entertainment (for the uninitiated, here’s a typical lyric of hers: "Pink wig, dick, ass, give ’em whiplash / I think big, get cash, make ’em blink fast.") I’ve never been the type to accuse someone of poisoning America’s youth, but her public image is vapid even by celebrity standards.
So anyway, right as the family drama takes hold, Manny gets separated from the clan due to Pangaea breaking at exactly the right moment (blame the comic relief rat character,) leaving him floating along with Sid the abandoned sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Dennis Leary.) Finding his family again would be tough enough, but he soon starts battling with a demented pirate ape (voiced by Peter Dinklage) and his evil tigress minion (Jennifer Lopez; who obviously spends the movie flirting with the disappointingly tame Leary.) I’m going to assume the entire "ice blocks formed like pirate ships" subplot is there to shoehorn in the Hollywood mantra "piracy doesn’t pay!" as a climactic line of dialogue.
For kids, and for parents fearing the worst, the film will play well enough. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to be, nothing more and nothing less - it’s short and sweet at about 90 minutes, some of the chase sequences are manic and play well visually thanks to the animators having to compose for 3-D, and there are at least a few honest laughs amongst the lowest-common-denominator bathroom humor. None of the actors are trying very hard; I tried and failed to think of a single line reading that contained honest emotion. But the Dreamworks Animation MO has always been to coast on celeb personalities and not on character; so the mere fact that we recognize the voices of Nicki or J.Lo is a success for them.
Your enjoyment will probably come down to personal tastes in comedy. Does the idea of Wanda Sykes as a demented granny tickle your funny bone? If it’s not a celebrity stunt casting, it’s NBC-worthy gags like "The Falls" - it’s a gateway hangout! Next thing you know she’ll be addicted to berries!" It misses twice as often as it hits, but it’s never painfully unfunny. It’s not the execution of the movie that gives me pause - it’s the question of whether it was necessary.
That’s what needs to be said in the face of all this acceptable mediocrity. This is assembly line cinema at its very worst. It feels more like a long TV special than a movie; going so far as to make sure everything is right back to the normal come time for the credits, so that the sequel can pick up wherever it wants (save adding a few new celebrity voices, naturally.) It makes you wonder how many iterations of this series or "Madagascar" that we’ll be subjected to until they just die out (excuse the pun) in favor of new talking animal characters. For a series about extinction, this franchise feels like it’s been going on forever.