Now into its fourth feature, the Ice Age franchise is a well-oiled machine. Fans of the first, second, or third movie should have gone into theaters or should be purchasing this Blu-ray knowing exactly what to expect: an adventure story with silly humor and some sort of family in-fight that will all be pleasantly resolved by the film’s final moments. Fans who prefer comfort with characters to new ideas should really enjoy Ice Age: Continental Drift.
As the film opens, Scrat the squirrel is up to his usual world-changing habits as he tries for the elusive acorn. We witness him in situations where any normal squirrel would perish, but Scrat prevails, shown when he breathes underwater for an extended period of time, etc. This time, Scrat is the catalyst for a continental split that threatens the herd and sends our heroes, Sid, Manfred, and Diego on a separate adventure from the rest of the pack.
Despite the vast presence of recycled themes, Sid, Manny, and Diego have gelled as characters over the years, changing their attitudes toward one another and truly looking out for each other, whatever the situation. The one good thing about the continental split is that the film can spend a good chunk of its time with its most well-written and most enjoyable characters. As the wooly mammoth Manny, Ray Romano gets in plenty of quips, my favorite being when he tells Sid, who has a goddawful grandparent (Wanda Sykes), that it’s “the spiteful ones who live the longest.”
Denis Leary’s Diego and John Leguizamo’s Sid also bring key components to the table, with Diego’s sarcastic but well-meaning personality and Leguizamo’s sheer energy. They are a good match for one another, and keeping Sid’s grandparent with the group doesn’t hurt, either, as she’s the butt of plenty of the jokes. Other than that though, she’s just an inappropriate older lady stock character who sometimes seems senile and other times provides shrewd commentary. It’s kind of a shameful way to utilize Sykes, although I’m sure she didn’t mind the paycheck.
When the group is separated from the rest of the herd, Manny is despondent, due to a fight with his daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer), just before the division. Soon, they are distracted by a band of pirates led by the selfish and cruel prehistoric ape, Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), and featuring the slinky smilodon, Shira (Jennifer Lopez) and the dumbass seal, Flynn (Nick Frost). Stranded, Manny, Diego, Sid, and his grandma just want to get home, but the pirate crew has other plans for them.
Make no mistake, Blue Sky Studios creates easy entertainment geared specifically at children. The creators prefer five Punch and Judy jokes to one good side comment from Manny or Diego, and they choose plotlines that rely more on visual glamour than telling a solid story. In Ice Age: Continental Drift our characters hop around various locals in the ocean, conveniently finding chunks of glaciers properly sized to be ships and running into sirens and the like.
Above all, there are too many side characters to give all the characters unique personalities. In nearly every scene, there’s a dumb character willing to say or do something stupid to get a laugh. On the pirate ship, it’s Nick Frost’s character, in Peaches crew of mammoths it’s one of the side mammoths, and within the herd as a whole, it’s Crash and Eddie (Sean William Scott and Josh Peck). Even Sid follows this routine to an extent, but it's a bit more endearing with him.
The real slap in the face is the musical numbers, however. They are a poor attempt to exploit the musical talent involved in the cast, and honestly, encouraging Romano and Dinklage to sing is never a good idea. The Ice Age franchise’s lame attempts to encourage singing characters is cringeworthy, and I don’t think kids are singing these songs in choirs as they do “Part of Your World.”
Ice Age: Continental Drift has some good components, but in total it’s an overbloated production that can’t even be saved by the sheer amount of talent invested in it. Maybe by the fourth in the series, that’s all the movie can be.
First off, Continental Drift looks great on Blu-ray. I may hate on the themes Blue Sky Studios chooses to portray in the flick, but there is tons of talent in the animation department. Since there is so much snow and ice, it’s amazing to see how much clarity all those white objects have.
“Party with a Pirate” and Aziz Ansari will guide you through the menu page if you so wish. I found this out thanks to a commercial that appears before the movie explaining how to turn it on.
There’s a whole musical sing-a-long that encourages different made-up dance moves for Sid’s “Continental Drift” dance and also features the lyrics to the pirate song onscreen. The “We are Family” music video, with some new animation footage, and The Wanted’s “Chasing the Sun" pop up next.
“The Scratist” is a short black and white silent film featuring the various distractions Scrat falls into. It’s actually a really cute flick that later turns out to be a preview for Continental Drift. “Scrat got your Tongue” spends some time with those in the studio who spend plenty of time with the squirrel. Hearing Chris Wedge do his Scrat voice is pretty creepy to watch, but kudos to the man for rocking out at squeaking. A slew of additional featurettes discuss animating the movie and its characters, making the movie, the actual theory of continental drift, Grandma Sloth, the pirates, and the story of Ice Age so far (the latter of which shows how far the animation has come along).
Additionally, fans can access a coloring page app and a tablet app that can bring additional characters to the screen. There are a lot of extras on the disc, and fans will definitely be getting their money’s worth.