There are sequels, then there are cash grabs, then there are fifty feet of direct-to-DVD spinoffs, then there is Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D. The franchise already showed signs of being soggy in part three but now rears its fungus-coated head in its entirety in this fourquel.
The quiet charm that made the first Ice Age movie a fun novelty has given way to loud over the top tomfoolery. Though slapstick can still be funny, Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D doesn’t have enough original comedy to keep things interesting, it’s almost as if writers Michael Berg, Jason Fuchs and Mike Reiss were tasked with doling out visual gags for television commercials. Most of the one liners are stale and the story seems to have been dictated by studio execs worried about audiences of all ages – thrown in is a joke for moms, one for dads, one for kids, one for teens, one for the pop culture and so forth. It’s rather frustrating because 2002’s Ice Age was originally made as a cure to the clichéd storytelling that had festered in Hollywood.
The story reeks of typical Hollywood corporate pressure, in Ice Age Continental Drift our friends the wooly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), the saber toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) face the biggest challenge of them all – being separated from the herd on a floating ice raft and encountering the end of the ice age. Once again the bloke unknowingly responsible for all this is Scrat the squirrel who is still obsessed with his acorn. Manny, Diego and Sid are left to face huge waves, quakes, and a certain gorilla pirate named Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) whose first mate Shira (Jennifer Lopez) falls for Diego. It sounds familiar, because it is.
Continental Drift also has a long drawn subplot of Manny’s family struggling against Mother Nature but only Scrat’s sections of discovering a treasure map holds one’s interest. The funniest bit is a badger who doubles as the ship’s pirate flag, but most terrible is pop sensation Nicki Minaj who voices a mean-gurl mammoth and makes your ears bleed out of exhaustion. And after the 30th character pops up with his own pop culture joke, one begins to long for a quiet, less bloated spinoff film featuring Scrat and his acorn. The most promising part of Ice Age Continental Drift is its gorgeous animation, but it is sadly complemented by largely unnecessary 3D. There are plenty of coming-at-ya 3D gags but they all feel as contrived as the sentimental life lessons in the film.
Like the meltdown in part three, the Ice Age franchise is now bereft of groundwork and laughs. Though that won’t exactly make the characters extinct, it’s only a matter of time until we get part five.
(First published in MiD Day)