The Age has Thawed out Some

    In 2002 Fox introduced us to the prehistoric comedy world of Ice Age.  Over the last decade, the adventures of Manny, Sid, Diego, and Scrat have continued to entertain both the young and young at heart.  This weekend the fourth installment of the series released, not counting the Christmas special mind you, and I’m here to report on it.  Let’s get started shall we.

The plot for Ice Age 4 Continental Drift is essentially a continuation from the two shorts that played before the movies.  Scrat’s journey to eat an acorn results in creating a crack that begins dividing the super landmass of Pangaea into the continents.  Unfortunately for Manny and the gang, the divide separates the trio from their home and out to sea.  Now on a quest to get back to his family, Manny and the gang must face the perils of the sea such as waves, giant crabs, and of course a furry band of pirates.  What comedic antics can they get into?

Unfortunately for this film not that many, as the humor of Ice Age has been seriously diluted.  While the first installment was balanced in both kid and adult humor, this Ice Age has shifted towards the kids.  The witty arguing amongst the herd is essentially gone, and been replaced with sentimental words, unintelligent screams, and a few squeaks that just aren’t humorous anymore.  The only exception to these limitations would be Sid and his grandmother, both of who still have a little comedy to help spice up the movie.  Sid’s stupidity, ignorance, and nice guy attitude leads to some rather entertaining scenarios that still had me laughing from time to time.  However, the writing team really took a lot of his interaction with the other creatures out, which also weakened his once comedic strengths.  Instead the team kind of focused on Granny’s character.  Wanda Sykes voice was well casted for the role having that classic granny high pitch voice to help make the character stand out.  Combine this with the sharp tongued whit of Sykes and you make a pretty entertaining character who had a bit of comedy for everyone.  Kids in particular will enjoy her constantly smacking the other characters, while adults will enjoy her senile dialog and dementia mannerisms that result in crazy stunts.  Fans of the opossum’s comedy are going to be really disappointed as the dynamic duo has one, maybe two moments of screen time to try to make us laugh.  As for Scrat, well the screaming, accident prone squirrel is still just as clumsy, but this time he is trying to find the island of acorns.  Unfortunately, they haven’t been too creative with his comedy in this flick, and the predictable shallow stunts have grown stale over the last ten years, at least for me.

What the movie lacks in comedy though is replaced by cuteness.  Ice Age 4 is definitely a kid friendly movie and is made to be an adventure with big fuzzy animals.  Most of the “scare” factors like exploding lava, surprise roars, and suspenseful race against nature scenes have been taken out.  Instead they have been replaced by cute groundhogs, fuzzy hedge moles with big eyes, and family friendly creatures who waddle or walk in a funny way.  I admit that the groundhogs were very cute and reminded me of the Ewoks from Star Wars, but for the most part the cuteness was lost on me.  Parents will be happy to hear that the scariest part of the movie was the monkey captain, who somehow made a few of the younger audience members cry.  If your child is easily frightened, then you might want to be ready to comfort them.

Perhaps the two strongest things I can say about this film are the animation and music.  The animation is just as fluid as ever, with all of the characters brilliantly modeled and crafted to interact with their environmentWhat impressed me even more is how the natural animal movements are still accurately captured in the animation and adapted to perform human activities instead.  While the younger audience members won’t care, but those who are looking for solid animation and design will appreciate the animation in this movie.  As for the music, well the instrumental work is well edited and integrated into the movie to help once again bring out the emotion at each scene.  However, the song that I really enjoyed was the We Are song written specifically for the movie.  The upbeat and energetic melody of the song was fun to listen too, the lyrics were well written and easy to get stuck in your head, and also a little humorous at times as well.  The song also has a variety of voices, a lot of the cast, singing the song to help give it some extra edge to the song.  This song may have been the reason they brought on half of the new voice cast for the movie, as three of the new voices are singers and not actors.

Overall Ice Age 4 is a good family movie to take your young children to.  With lots of slapstick silliness, cute characters, and lack of scary scenes, Fox has made a good summer time movie.  However, fans of the earlier installments, or those easily annoyed by cuteness will want to avoid this movie.  Without the fun interactions, cleverly written dialog, and balanced comedy though, the voice work and animation just aren’t worth a trip to the theater.  Factoring all of these things in, my scores for the movie are the following:

Comedy/Kids/Animated:  7-7.5 (mainly for animation and kids)

Movie Overall:  6


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