Ice Age: Continental Drift has given me the important gift of understanding that not all animated films are created equal. Before, there was a small part of my critic-brain that felt foolish reviewing a movie intended for audiences who don't even know their ABC's well enough to read my reviews. But now I get it--now, I have a mission. I am one of the people who can warn you, as parents or as fans of the animated arts, that some stuff is groundbreaking, some stuff is palatable, and other stuff will suck you of your will to live. The fourth installment of this series is somewhere between the last two.
The first Ice Age movie wasn't all that good either, but it had goggle-eyed sloths and squeaky squirrels among other animals that at least give kids the idea that the time period existed in the first place. It was fine. But now, 10 years later, for some reason we're still stuck here, feeding off the same old frozen carcass. This time, the land is busting apart and forming the continents. In a dramatic-but-not-really moment, Manny (Ray Romano) gets separated from Ellie (Queen Latifah) and his daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer). He and Diego (Denis Leary), along with the dense-but-charming-10-years-ago Sid (John Leguizamo) float away on an iceberg, vowing to return to the very shaken tundra full of animals.
There are the usual add-ons to the cast to keep them hip and fresh. Wanda Sykes is Sid's Granny, who's always good for some jokes about her missing dentures. Even though she was funnier than Doris Roberts in Madea's Witness Protection as the disoriented oldster who might not be as insane as she seems, that's still not saying much. Jennifer Lopez is the wily saber-tooth tiger that gives Diego a run for his money, and Drake plays Ethan, the hot mammoth that Peaches is crushing on. Peter Dinklage, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Seann William Scott get jammed in there too. It's almost like the creators were overcompensating…hmm…
The biggest problem with the film is that it lacks any kind of innovative humor or genuinely touching moments. The filmmakers seemed too busy making sure that every action sequence was followed by some quick conversation about fruit or how crazy Granny is, and then it just barged into another action sequence. This is more towards the Alvin and the Chipmunks school of thinking than the Pixar one. Even though there's plenty to hypnotize your children into sitting quietly for two hours (which is definitely worth something), it's not going to mean anything to them or actually teach them any of the haphazard lessons thrown in by the screenwriter. Their iceberg gets taken over by pirates (Dinklage being the head meanie), then they get away, then they run into them again, and they run away again, and they see sirens, and then the pirates are back. Blah blah blah. It melted together, just like the ice caps.