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You won't catch their 'Drift'

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New 'Ice Age' movie a formulaic rehash

One of the most welcome developments in cinema over the past 15 or 20 years is the marked increase in quality from films aimed at children. It used to be that your choices were Disney or a bunch of condescending, derivative crap (the occasional Don Bluth offering notwithstanding). But now that heavy hitters such as Dreamworks and Fox are doing their own kid-oriented movies, the bar for once-easily dismissed 'kid stuff' has never been higher.

Which is why a movie like 'Ice Age: Continental Drift' is so disappointing.

The gang from the previous three installments is all here again. Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano, TV's 'Men of a Certain Age') and his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah, 'Joyful Noise') are raising their willful daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer, 'Joyful Noise') in yet another generic prehistoric setting. The gang from the previous movies is here too: Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary, TV's 'Rescue Me') and Syd the sloth (John Leguizamo, 'One for the Money') are both still part of the picture.

However, when the continents start shifting and a worldwide cataclysm begins (all started by squirrel-thing Scrat's Quixotic quest for acorns, I might add), Manny, Diego and Syd along with Syd's Grannie (Wanda Sykes, TV's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm') find themselves set adrift on the ocean, desperately searching for a way home.

Along the way they encounter the sinister Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage, TV's 'Game of Thrones'), a pirate ape who leads a crew including an angry rabbit (Aziz Anisari, TV's 'Parks and Recreation'), a dopey elephant seal (Nick Frost, 'Attack the Block') and a cold-blooded tiger named Shira (Jennifer Lopez, 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'). Manny and his friends clash with the scurvy buccaneers as they try to find their way back to their friend and loved ones.

Does that sound familiar? Because it's pretty much the plot to every 'Ice Age' movie; the three main characters get lost and have to find their way back to someone/thing/place. Some wackiness ensues and they learn an important lesson about friendship, themselves and each other. Interspersed throughout, there are scenes where the squirrel-thing does some stuff vaguely connected with the main plot. Maybe there's a song or two. Then roll credits with pictures of the actors recording their voiceovers next to images of their characters.

Don't get me wrong; there's a reason they keep going back to the same well. The heroic journey makes for a fantastic kid's movie. But it all just feels recycled there's no real originality here. Sure there are some funny moments, but they are mostly overcome by the formulaic nature of it all. The best parts are the too-infrequent interludes featuring Scrat there's at least some entertaining slapstick to be had.

(Of course, the best part of the whole experience for me was the Maggie Simpson short that opened the film. 'The Longest Daycare' elicited more laughs out of me in five minutes than the feature did in an hour and a half.)

You'd think that any movie featuring Peter Dinklage as a singing monkey pirate would automatically be awesome, but alas, it is not to be. 'Ice Age: Continental Drift' isn't a terrible film the kids in the screening I saw were certainly entertained but it's not much more than a jumbled rehash of the previous three films. In an era of exceptional children's movies, it simply doesn't measure up.

2 out of 5

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 14:40

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