Ice Age: Continental Drift coasts along using the same old formula

Ice Age: Continental Drift is the fourth outing in the series from Blue Sky Studios, the CGI animation company that also brought Rio to cinemas last year.  Produced by a team involved at various levels with the previous three Ice Age films, Continental Drift sticks to its safe, child pleasing formula.  Aimed at a pre-teen audience, the film offers little for those actually paying the demographics’ price of admission, but it’s filled with the kind of goofy material that kids eat up.

Ice Age: Continental Drift officially opens 13 July in the UK

Directors Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier open the film in somewhat odd fashion, using their entire animated short “Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up” for the film’s opening minutes, despite the fact it has been widely available online for over 18 months.  The exact same footage was also used as a teaser trailer for Ice Age: Continental Drift, so while it may entertain it’s not a great note to start a brand new feature on.  Once the film does get rolling, the cavalcade of characters is introduced in quick fashion.  Many of these, including Sid (voiced once again by John Leguizamo) the Sloth’s family are just as quickly forgotten. Sticking around for the first time in the series are Sid’s grandmother (Wanda Sykes, being unmistakably Wanda Sykes-ish) and Manny and Ellie’s daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer).  As Scrat pursues his acorn hunt per usual, the central plot sees the mammoth family torn apart by the continental break-up, meaning most of the time is spent with Manny (Ray Romano), Sid and Diego (Denis Leary) as they ride the seas on various icebergs in attempt to get back to family and friends.  Meanwhile, boy-crazy Peaches learns a valuable lesson about friendship in a shoe-horned subplot that annoys rather than amuses.  Ice Age: Continental Drift is a busy film and while none of it is particularly gripping, its silly slapstick and dopey characters do manage to appeal to its target audience.

Though it tries to instil some life lessons along the way, Ice Age: Continental Drift is little more than a fluffy action adventure movie, as the bulk of the film focuses on Manny and friends as they battle against an evil baboon pirate captain (Peter Dinklage) and his rather uninspired crew.  Nick Frost makes a memorable mark with his daft elephant seal, Flynn, and Jennifer Lopez provides a great foil for Diego voicing the sultry sabre-toothed tiger Shira.  For the most part, the voice-over work is solid, even if there are too many insignificant or underdeveloped characters popping up.  Ice Age old-hand Michael Berg’s screenplay does rely too heavily on repetitive action sequences.  Too much time is spent on too many iceberg “ships” leaving Ice Age: Continental Drift to stagnate in the final act.  What the film needs is more fun moments like the Siren scene, which adds a much-needed change of pace, humour and colour.

On the topic of visuals, there isn’t much to boast about with Ice Age: Continental Drift.  The colours are rather dull and don’t exactly jump off the screen, needless 3D or not.  While the character and environment design is passable, it is clear how badly Blue Sky lags behind not just Pixar, but Dreamworks, Paramount and Illumination Entertainment in the CGI animation stakes.  There’s no denying that Ice Age: Continental Drift looks fairly simple compared to its contemporaries.  This may not matter much to the younger audience members, but the result is certainly less awe-inspiring than may have been hoped for.

Ice Age: Continental Drift won’t be turning many heads within the industry, but that won’t stop it from finding a young audience eager to soak up the prehistoric animals’ antics.  The fourth film of the Ice Age saga is consistent with its predecessors, for better and for worse.  Playing it safe means Ice Age: Continental Drift will provide mild entertainment for millions of children, but it’d be nice to see Blue Sky Studios take a few risks on their next project.  For now, they’re sure to drift on to moderate success.  6/10

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