[Review] – Ice Age: Continental Drift

25 Jul

Title: Ice Age: Continental Drift
Year: 2012
Directors: Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier
Writers: Jason Fuchs, Michael Berg and Mike Reiss
Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Keke Palmer, Chris Wedge, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Josh Gad, Aziz Ansari, Wanda Sykes
MPAA Rating: PG, mild rude humor and action/peril
Runtime: 88 min
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Metacritic: 48

Animated film franchises can get to be pretty boring quite fast, and the fall in quality from one to the next can be just tremendous, not even bothering to cover up the fact that they’re being made to make a ton of cash in box office grosses, home video and merchandising products. Of course there are exceptions, like Toy Story, but the fact is that when an animated film is given a sequel, whether it’s playing in theaters or going straight to video, more often than not it feels like a total cash-grab.

Still, this year gave us Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, which I gave an A- and I think of as the best of the three movies of that DreamWorks Animation franchise, one that’s been making tons of money out of the films, the video games, the television series since starting off in 2005. So, if Madagascar could revive itself, maybe Blue Sky StudiosIce Age franchise could too, right? Well, actually, no.

This is a franchise that’s already a decade old, has spawned three films prior to this one, half a dozen video games, short films, a Christmas TV special and an upcoming ice show to open later this year, plus millions coming out of merchandise related to these characters that kids love so much. So of course this fourth entry into the series was to be expected; after all, the first three films combined had taken nearly $2 billion at the worldwide box office, a milestone that’s already been easily passed thanks to this new one already having raked in over $530 million of its own. So yeah, a four-film franchise that has three of those films in the All-Time Top 100 highest-grossing films worldwide, has grossed nearly $2.5 billion worldwide and that still has this one earning some nice dough. You can’t really blame them for making this one.

The fact is, however, that, quality-wise, this is a franchise that has been in a steep decline. The first Ice Age is a film that I actually really enjoy, I think it’s super fun and one of those first pretty cool examples of animation when CGI was starting to take over. And even though the following two films, Ice Age: The Meltdown, from 2006, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, from 2009, were considerably less entertaining, they still had a couple of moments that were pretty fun (moreso in the second one than in the third one). Ice Age: Continental Drift, the third offering of the franchise, however, is a film I really can’t recommend.

I mean, yeah, this one still has a few of those amusing moments in which it seems super smart about how it does some dumb slapstick-y things, and it does have a couple of warm charming moments as well. But, for one, it doesn’t really have that many of them, and, more importantly, every time it gives you one, it feels like you’ve seen it before – in any or all of the other three films, so you might be better off just popping the Blu-Ray of one of those instead. Still, kids will obviously want to see where Scrat’s pursuit of the acorn takes the gang this time around, so you can be damn sure that this one will keep the money rolling in.

What does happen is that Scrat’s hunt for the acorn sets into motion the break up of the landmass into continents. What happens is that Sid has to take care of his 80-year-old grandmother voiced by Wanda Sykes. What happens is that Manny is separated from his family. What happens is that Diego starts falling for a pirate saber-tooth voiced by Jennifer Lopez. And what happens is that you get Peter Dinklage voicing Captain Gutt, the pirate who serves as the story’s main antagonist. A lot of things happen, one would say, but they all feel and look the same, with jokes that don’t land all that much and action sequences in 3D that don’t even look that good.

That’s kind of the whole feel of this film, it kind of drags along quite a bit, treading over familiar territory again and again, as though it thinks we won’t notice it’s doing just that. And I dislike that, I mean, by the time any franchise, animated or not, hits a fourth film it’s inevitable that we ask ourselves why the new entry even exists; and this one’s just answering the question with a loud and clear, “to make money”. Hell, even the actors, all of them great on paper, are pretty damn dull. I mean, Peter Dinklage is good, but the rest of them, especially those returning like Ray Romano or Denis Leary, sound super tired and bored with their line-readings, just collecting a paycheck.

Like I said, I don’t recommend this film. I think it’s by far the weakest in the franchise, and even though it goes out of its way to give us situations that lend themselves to the 3D, I actually think that added dimension is poorly implemented here. That being said, I do think little kids will like this one. I mean, yes, the dialogue is poor, the characters seem stupid, but they’re characters kids love, and the whole thing’s noisy and bright and, yeah, don’t be surprised if they go ahead and make a fifth one. I, for one, am just hoping Scrat finds the damn acorn and this is all over.

Grade: C+


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