For three-year-olds, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” (aka Ice Age 4) will seem new and fresh. After all, they haven’t been to many movies. The tale, as most of us know by now, is about an unlikely band of mammoths, saber tooth tigers, sloths and assorted smaller animals that are caught up in the sudden onslaught of the last ice age. This is a cartoon for very young children, so I won’t even wonder why the alpha predators are nice and cuddly and never hungry. In a disastrous disruption of the planetary crust, the friends must escape from where they are to somewhere else. Scary.
The mammoth family — mom, dad and teen daughter — provides the core of the band of pals. There is a nicely scripted sub-plot about teen girls and their dads having differing agendas. The film does show that whatever the disagreements about curfews and boys, there is an unbreakable bond of love between parent and child. Peaches, the daughter mammoth, is voiced by 19-year-old singer/actress Keke Palmer, once the highest paid child star working.
Less successful is the dangerous interlude part when the band is captured by pirates, led by a big monkey (size and perspective shifts hallucinatory like from time to time with the monkey seeming to be bigger and more frightening than the multi-ton mammoth). The pirates include a bloodthirsty bunny and a mentally deficient elephant seal. Their ship is an iceberg pushed by sea mammals. And so it goes.
The voice actors are what make the film interesting to adults. Ray Romano plays the protective mammoth dad and Queen Latifah is his calm and stable wife. Denis Leary plays Diego, the saber tooth tiger who never eats, and Jennifer Lopez is his feline love interest. John Leguizamo voices Sid, the goofy, hyper-optimistic sloth, in an uncharacteristic role as a decent person after many roles as a low life criminal. Other voices are provided by Peter Dinklage (lately seen in Game of Thrones as the dwarf prince), Seann William Scott, Simon Pegg and Patrick Stewart.
Scrat, the acorn-seeking rodent, pops up frequently to provide comic relief after the scary earthquake or pirate scenes. His fixation and greed lead him to predicaments that include a trip to the center of the earth and the destruction of Atlantis. But he is cute and funny, so it’s all right.
This two saw blade cartoon movie holds nothing of interest to those past the middle grades in elementary school. It runs a short one hour and 34 minutes to accommodate the attention span of the target audience.
Granny Sloth, played by Wanda Sykes, makes the movie for me. She is cranky and crazy and can’t understand what is said to her. At the climax of the film, the characters break out in song to the old Sly and the Family Stone hit, “We are Fam-a-ly.” Granny thinks they are singing, “We are ham and cheese.” The little kids loved it. Any film that finishes with lodes of five-year-olds leaving the theater singing “We are ham and cheese” at the top of their little lungs is OK by me.
Worldwide, the $100 million budget film has already brought in $255 million. Fox was crazy like a fox to make the fourth installment in the Ice Age franchise.