“I love a terrible turn of events.”
Ever wonder how the continents formed and the land masses on planet earth got their present shapes? The short answer appears to be nuts. Literally, nuts. For a decade our children have been getting their geologic time lessons from the folks at Dreamworks animated feature shop. Yes, the same folks who brought us the Shrek series. Ice Age came out in 2002 and took the box office like a blizzard piling up a drift of cash that amounted to almost $180 million before it was over. Not bad for a $50 million dollar film. Add in another $200 million in foreign receipts, and a series of sequels was an absolute foregone conclusion. The film introduced us to some memorable characters. Manny (Romano) was a lovable woolly mammoth. Diego (Leary) was a kind and wise saber-toothed tiger. Sid (Leguizamo) was their tagalong friend with not much going on in the noggin. A side story involved a prehistoric squirrel named Scrat who loved his acorns. He had a Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner relationship with acorns and took a lot of punishment to get one. Ice Age 2: The Meltdown brought the Ice a change in their environment and love in the air for Manny. He meets Ellie (Latifah). Together they must find colder climes as their ice is melting fast. They find their Winter Wonderland, and Blue Sky Studios found another hit. This time the film brought in a crazy $200 million here and another $450 foreign. Before home video the film was close to $700 million in box office. Can you say number 3? Add some dinosaurs to the cast for Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs and another $250 million for a total take of nearly $900 million on the third film. If you’re doing the math, that’s over $2 billion on three films. Is it any surprise that ten years after the first film the gang returns for Ice Age: Continental Drift? Who says the government’s the only one out there printing money?
“Remember us, we’re the bad guys.”
The film begins with lovable Scrat still after the elusive acorn. This time he literally cracks up the planet and creates the familiar land masses we know today. While it might not be quite the geography lesson we want our kids to have, it’s the most entertaining part of the film. The land mass shifts are breaking up the place where the gang lives. It forces Manny, Diego and Sid on a floating iceberg where they try to get back and rescue the others before a moving stone wall pushes them into the sea. That’s when they run afoul of Captain Gutt (Dinklage), a marauding ape and his band of misguided pirates. The motley crew includes Shira (Lopez) a female saber-toothed tiger who really doesn’t want to be bad. She is a potential love interest for Diego and is torn between him and her loyalty to Captain Gutt. There’s also a rabbit and a seal in the crew. Then there’s Sid’s long-lost grandma (Sykes) and her pivotal “imaginary” pet Precious. Ships made of ice and plenty of slapstick are the order of the day.
The film attempts to avoid the number 4 in the title, but we can’t help but feel like we’ve seen all of this before. The characters don’t really develop here, and one has to question if they’ve gone about as far as they can. The film relies on additions to the cast of characters to keep things fresh, and for a short while it works. The problem is that the film moves a lot but never really appears to get anywhere. Don’t get me wrong. This has always been a great voice cast, and the characters are still lovable, but the stretch is beginning to show on the material. Scrat is still the most fun, and he’s not in this one as much as he has been before. The best parts of the film are his bookend appearances. The rest will likely entertain the very young kids in the audience but might be wearing a bit thinly on the adults. There are getting to be too many characters to give any of them as much attention. The pirate theme is fun for a while but eventually runs aground.
This is the first of the series to be filmed for 3D. There’s no question that directors Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier rely quite heavily on the gimmick, and that is pretty much what it is here. Characters are constantly running or throwing things toward the camera. It could diminish the film’s home video value, which has been a strong showing for the first three films.
The computer animation is another story completely. Dreamworks comes the closest to challenging the guys at Pixar, and this film looks pretty good. There’s plenty of ice and water, and a decade ago that would have been the film’s weakness. No longer. The animation crew have really outdone themselves yet again. If the story hasn’t really evolved, the technology certainly has.
There is actually a good reason to check the film out in spite of its underwhelming plot. There is a Maggie Simpson short in front of the film that is quite good.
There’s a large marketing push behind this film, and I expect it will bring in more money than any of the others with the 3D premium. That almost guarantees a fifth film in the next couple of years. Can you blame them? Executives can’t help but look at the big pile of money. “It pays to weigh a ton.”