Cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Keke Palmer, Chris Wedge, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Heather Morris
I’m one of those people who absolutely love Scrat the Squirrel, and the acorn he’s obsessed with. And so we’ll forgive him the pre-film transgression that pitches us into 'Continental Drift', the fourth film of the Ice Age franchise.
The first few minutes had me worried. Peaches (Keke Palmer), the teen – or whatever the animal equivalent is – daughter of mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah), has a crush on Ethan, the object of every female mammoth’s affection. And Manny’s trying to keep them apart. The rift between father and daughter becomes literal when Pangaea, or whatever the single prehistoric continent our old friends inhabit is called, begins to break as the tectonic plates move. Oh, great, a sap story with antics by Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) and philosophy from Diego the Smilodon (Denis Leary), I thought.
Fortunately, the primary characters in this story are Grandma Sloth (Wanda Sykes), Sid’s horrifyingly filthy, toothless grandmother, and Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), the sadistic captain of a pirate iceberg, complete with a crew of raggedy – and anachronistic – animals. This time round, it’s Diego’s turn to find love, and that makes me half-anticipate, half-fear an Ice Age 5 where Sid loses his heart to a slothette.
The best thing about 'Continental Drift' is easily its comic timing. There are blink-and-you-miss-it frames that make one double up, and quips that work only because the timing is perfect. Watch out for the part where Sid shrugs, “My mother always said ‘Bad news is good news in disguise’,” and the comeback it begs.
The first half-hour is a blur of excitement, as we’re hurled into the seas along with everyone we know. The death – or dismembering – of a minor character prepares us for the prospect of slightly darker humour in this edition of the series. However, the film slips back into the Hollywood cliché of finding British and Indian accents hilarious.
The antagonist is a formidable one and Captain Gutt’s clashes with Manny set the pace in a film that’s a crisp 87 minutes long. An army of chipmunks, with its martial arts rituals and an unlikely camaraderie with Sid the Sloth, gives the filmmakers a chance to rib their brainchild. And they employ the staple devices – slow-mo and dramatic music.
Naturally, with a voice cast bursting with singers – Jennifer Lopez joins in this time – there’s a good number of songs. Thankfully, they’re short. And thankfully, they’re funny when they’re comprehensible.