One can imagine being tired of the fourth installation of the animation venture “Ice Age 4: Continental Drift.” After all, the “Shrek” sequels did become a bit of a cash-cow launch-pad that could not achieve the initial effect of the first film.
Yet, children and adults alike will be more than happy to know that this fourth film is indeed successful and good fun, and maintains the framework of a well-structured TV show as opposed to repeating itself. Furthermore, its use of 3D does not disturb and surprisingly complements the visual effects.
The herd is back! Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano) and his beloved wife, Ellie (Queen Latifah), are living happily ever after with their daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer), who, just like all teenagers, wants to hang out with her friends and do irresponsible things. Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) are still with the gang. In addition, Sid gets an unannounced visit from his crazy grandmother, “Granny” (voiced by hilarious comedienne Wanda Sykes), who is constantly calling out for her imaginary pet, “Precious” (turns out later that Precious might not be so imaginary after all!).
All is well in the herd until nature plays out history -- the continents start to drift apart in the Ice Age and our herd is unintentionally divided into two amid the geological transformation. Manny, Sid, Diego and Granny suddenly find themselves on a huge block of ice that drifts away from their home in the mountains, through the currents of the ocean. Manny wants to get back to his beloved family as soon as possible, but the currents are too strong. And thus begins a buccaneer adventure.
Our crew is taken hostage by a pack of pirates lead by a prehistoric ape called Captain Gut (voiced by the talented Peter Dinklange). The first mate of the pirates is a female saber-toothed tiger called Shira (Jenniger Lopez), who becomes the love interest of our Diego.
What follows is a sequence of beautifully drawn chase scenes through the ocean involving a whale, several mean dolphins, hideous sirens and a tribe of island hamsters, who are possibly the cutest animation characters of the last decade. Forget “Puss in Boots,” these hamsters are so adorable, especially when they pull off a “Braveheart” homage that should go down in cinema books.
And of course let’s not forget about the stand-alone adventures of Scrat the squirrel and his quest for his holy grail of an acorn. When he does finally reach the treasure island he is looking for, things take such a comical and intelligent turn of events that one almost becomes pleased with the political undertones of the script, which is “supposedly” aimed at children. I will not reveal the final punch line, but it has something to do with the American culture of consumption.
As always, “Ice Age 4” focuses on family-oriented themes that border on the didactic, but it does this splendidly. Its emphasis is on the notion that we can choose our new family from our friends if our biological one disowns us, along with the belief that there is nothing wrong with being a misfit. These are worthy ideas for children and grown-ups alike. The film’s constant underlining of real friendship, (i.e., looking out for our friends) and standing up for the right thing is inspiring.
The technical aspects of the film are meticulous; it’s nice to see that Fox Studios can be an alternative for the mega-giant PIXAR. An animation short from “The Simpsons” is shown before the main feature, in which the main character is baby Maggie. This short is also astoundingly produced -- storywise and technically -- that it gets the viewer properly in the mood for the subsequent feature. “Ice Age 4” is refreshing and emotionally intelligent entertainment -- go see it, even if you don’t have a child to take along. There is no excuse for missing out on the universe of these lovable sub-zero characters in these sweltering summer months.
“Ice Age 4: Continental Drift”
Directed by: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier
Voice Cast: Ray Romano,
John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Chris Wedge, Keke Palmer