LIKE ITS predecessors, this latest installment in Fox’s Blue Sky Studio’s animation franchise – a surprisingly successful response to Pixar and Dreamworks, now in its 10th year – comes prepared with familiar voices, offers up a few surprises, ticks a requisite eco-awareness box, and generally entertains without rewriting the book.
In round four, Earth’s tectonic plates have been severely disrupted by the acorn-chasing antics of the half-rat, half-squirrel Scrat (Chris Wedge), who manages to split the continents (and the ice) up. Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano) – who’s just had a row with his daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) – is similarly whisked off to sea on an iceberg, with Sid the buck-toothed Sloth (John Leguizamo), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and Granny (Wanda Skyes).
Before long, they run into the evil clutches of a pirate ship (or rather, iceberg), run by orangutan pirate Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), where Diego meets the sultry Shira (Jennifer Lopez). A sequence involving the so-called sirens –ravenous creatures that impersonate their prey’s desires – is one of several challenges thrown in for good measure, as the motley crew battle to get home.
For a series that’s tended to be the more forgettable among its rivals (TOY STORY, among them), Ice Age has survived, even thrived, remarkably well. Global box office – at around the $US2billion mark – remains healthy (assuming this fourth outing also delivers), and there’s the added bonus of J.Lo to peak interest in young and old. Even Captain Gutt’s musical interlude, Master of the Seas, is rather good – Peter Dinklage is by far the standout here – while the issues of environment are displayed but not overplayed. The absence of series director Carlos Saldanha is also not of grave concern, either.
I’ve never been a particular fan of this series, and am still inclined to favour the smarts of Pixar – the disappointing BRAVE aside – above all others. ICE AGE still feels a tad too simplistic in its characterisation to be a worthy challenger to the CGI-animé crown that it once appeared so desperate to win. With hindsight – a decade on – it would seem to have merely found a means of tapping into that lucrative market, rather than having to mimic the competition (ICE AGE still looks, like last year’s joyful RIO, more like a classic cartoon than its competitors). And that, at least, is very impressive indeed.
Critical Rating: 7/10.
ICE AGE 4: CONTINENTAL DRIFT 3D is now showing in cinemas.