Sunday, 13 January 2013

Film Review | Ice Age 4: Continental Drift (2012)

You'd be hard pressed to name a film franchise that has managed to maintain a respectable level of quality over four installments. Sadly, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift manages to provide a spectacular example of just why this is.

After Scrat (Chris Wedge) accidentally causes the break-up of the continents, Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis Leary) are separated from the rest of their herd and set adrift over the sea on a block of ice. With Manny determined to reunite with Ellie (Queen Latifah) and their daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer), the group cross paths with Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), a piratical primate with a rag-tag crew sailing on their own shipshape iceberg.

Ice Age 4 has its moments, albeit ones that are sadly few and far between. The opening sequence showing how Scrat, in typical Tex Avery style, wreaks havoc with the earth's crust through his usual nut-burying activity is a genuine highlight. It's a shame then that Scrat's antics throughout the rest of the film are severely downplayed from previous installments and, for the first time in an Ice Age film, feel desperately uninspired and woefully tacked on. Scrat's interludes have been a highlight throughout all of the first three films, so to have to write so negatively about them here is a real disappointment.

The film also makes some potentially good choices. I was genuinely heartened when Manny, Sid and Diego were separated off from all the other characters they've picked up across the first two sequels, a band of three for the first time since the original film. Disappointingly, the chemistry and sharp scripting of the first film is never recreated, with the trio feeling like a tired shadow of what they once were.

From there, Ice Age 4 is largely a collection of irritating and underdeveloped characters and recycled ideas from not only previous Ice Age films but also other franchises. Jennifer Lopez's Shira is a flat and uninteresting love interest for Diego, with Leary and Lopez having no chemistry. Dinklage as Captain Gutt is fine but forgettable; it's hardly worth mentioning any of Gutt's crew members, too many in number as they are and each as one-dimensional as the next. Sid's Granny (Wanda Sykes) adds nothing, feeling like an excuse to plough the well-worn furrow of jokes about old people. Worst of all, however, are the street-talking teenage mammoths, voiced by the likes of Drake and Nicki Minaj, that Manny's daughter wants to "hang" with. Any time these characters are on screen is excruciating to the point of embarrassment, and left me wondering how the Ice Age franchise could possibly have slipped so far from its charming origins.

Ice Age 4 ends up as nothing more than a signifier that the franchise has gone one too many and needs to end before it tarnishes the reputation of the far superior previous installments. It's a film strung together with lazy writing and vacuous pop culture references that feel desperate rather than cool. It's even a struggle to praise the animation which actually feels less impressive than that seen in the second sequel. Watching Ice Age 4 as a fan of the franchise in general only made its glaring errors and sloppy execution all the more disappointing. The best that can be hoped for is that the inevitable fifth installment (with Ice Age 4's box office success) is an improvement on this.


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