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Monday, July 30, 2012  

M. Ovie Reviews: Ice Age: Continental Drift

The thing about reviewing any Ice Age movie is that you're actually reviewing two films. One—and the one that gets butts in seats, I suspect—is a near-silent slapstick piece about Scrat, a hapless saber-toothed squirrel (sic) who's like Wile E. Coyote, but instead of being constantly outsmarted by a bird, he's always thwarted by the intellectual might of an acorn. The other movie is about the ever-growing assortment of prehistoric creatures facing increasingly outlandish threats to their existence posed by the very earth itself. But I can still save some time by saying that both franchises are running out of steam, at least writing-wise.

In fact, the "main" storyline in the fourth Ice Age movie is more like the first Madagascar movie, with a thin storyline stringing together a clattering series of references to, and tropes from, tons of other (and in most cases better) movies. There are bits from The Perfect Storm, Return of the Jedi, Mean Girls, Pirates of the Caribbean, Last of the Mohicans, and any number of other movies that I, and more to the point your kids, haven't even seen. The plot starts out with a smart move, separating the original movie's trio of Manny the mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger, and Sid the sloth from the rest of the bloated cast (Manny's wife Ellie, their now-teenage daughter Peaches, Ellie's opossum brothers Crash and Eddie, and a whole goddamn zoo of supporting voices), but they're soon just dealing with another menagerie, namely a pirate crew. Hijinx, as you might imagine, ensue. Just not particularly clever ones.

As for the Scrat storyline, that's already been taken as far as it can possibly go, and beyond, several times. And yet this time it goes farther. I have to admit to some grudging admirations for the imaginations that can make you say, "Oh, come on" to new scenes about a saber-toothed squirrel who has in the past survived multi-mile freefalls, travels through time, and blunt-force trauma that would pulverize NORAD.

This is not to say the animation isn't pretty amazing. There's a storm scene in particular that's astounding – but mostly after the fact. Maybe it sucks that so many people worked so hard to render all those crashing waves and raindrops in such loving detail and I'm so ungrateful to them for it, but what I really would have appreciated is another round of punch-ups to the script. Even M. Edium got bored the second time he saw it.

And of course one doesn't expect slavish devotion to realism in a movie about talking animals, but this one doubles down on the previous movies' attacks on geology, zoology, paleontology, and physics, adding in some major affronts to oceanography, seismology, and cetology for good measure. It's not often you see characters trying to outrun a continental shelf. In fact I think the last time was at the end of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Hence my theory that this movie doesn't take place on prehistoric earth at all, but some kind of Genesis 2.0 world.

But I'm sure I'll still take M. Edium to the fifth Ice Age movie, with its increasingly anachronistic core cast and a colon and a subtitle rather than a number. But I wish I were looking forward to it more.

posted by M. Giant 12:20 PM 0 comments


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