DIR: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier • WRI: Michael Berg, Jason Fuchs • PRO: John C. Donkin, Lori Forte • DOP: Renato Falcão • ED: James Palumbo, David Ian Salter • Cast: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo
Silent Scrat strikes again, again proving to be the best feature of the Ice Age film series.
Scrat’s obsession with an acorn again triggers catastrophic environmental changes that alter the lives of our heroic trio, Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth and Diego, the sabre-toothed tiger. Drifting continents separate Manny from his wife and child Peaches. Castaway on icebergs, Manny, Sid and Diego are determined to get home, encountering storms, giant crabs and the dastardly Captain Gutt, a baboon masquerading as a pirate whose crew includes a rabbit, a sabre-toothed tiger, a seal, a badger, and a kangaroo.
Sid remarks that their last adventure, with dinosaurs (Ice Age 3), made no sense, and there’s not much sense in this one. The Ice Age formula combines comic interplay with action sequences set against the frozen backdrops at the era’s end. Sense doesn’t matter as long as there are enough thrills and laughs. There isn’t.
Franchises face the difficulty of keeping characters interesting. Manny plays the concerned father, worried about his teenage daughter cavorting with the good looking (for mammoths!) young neighbourhood stud. These scenes are too insipid to interest adults and too boring to amuse children. Manny’s emotional needs provide impetus for the trio to return to the mainland, but they reveal Manny as dull and out of place. Or else its makers think that the major market for the film is 11 to 14 year old girls, who might relate to Peaches’ conflict with her dad. It’s all too hackneyed. (Speaking of teenyboppers, The Wanted provide the theme song ‘Chasing the Sun’)
Jennifer Lopez voices Diego’s love interest, Shira, and slothful Sid must look after his grandma, dumped on him by his family before they abandon him (again). Peter Dinklage relishes voicing Captain Gutt. The cast features recording artists such as Lopez, Queen Latifah, Drake and Nicki Minaj, but only Lopez sings in the one musical number during the film, an interlude that seems out of place and fails. The first Ice Age film not directed by Carlos Saldanha is frenetic. It would work better if they had focused on what makes its best feature work well.
Scrat’s speechless adventures with his acorn always amuse. His situation resembles that of classic characters such as Wile E Coyote, who lived only to chase the Road Runner. What would happen Scrat if there were no acorn? As we know him, he would cease to be. This existential connection between character and motivation drives Scrat’s doings, and the writers work well to make his quest comic, fantastic, exciting. If Manny lost his daughter, he’d still be a depressive mammoth, just moping about something else. Scrat’s Sisyphean existence promises more fun. If only there were more.
The screening includes The Longest Daycare, a short film by David Silverman, who directed The Simpsons Movie. It provides another example of an effective silent animated character. While she may have shot Mr Burns, this time Maggie saves a butterfly from her arch-nemesis at a day-care centre.
Rated G (see IFCO website for details)
Ice Age: Continental Drift is released on 29th June 2012