This continental ‘Ice Age’ doesn’t have the right drift

Reeling It In
This image shows the characters Diego, voiced by Denis Leary, left, Sid, voiced by John Leguizamo and Manny, voiced by Ray Romano in a scene from the animated film, “Ice Age: Continental Drift.”

"Ice Age: Continental Drift"
Blue Sky Studios
1 hour, 34 minutes

Since I became a parent, I've been to many more kids' movies than I would have otherwise. That's no great surprise, but all this exposure forced me to reevaluate my standards for this kind of fare. Before I was worried about the responsibility of molding young minds, I could look at innocuous fare like "Ice Age," and think, "Well, it's dumb, but so what?" Nowadays, after making such an effort to monitor the quality of what my kids watch, be it Pixar films or "Sesame Street," dumb no longer seems so innocuous.


"Ice Age: Continental Drift" is the fourth in the series, and it could be that my enjoyment was hampered somewhat by the fact that I was unfamiliar with most of the characters, having only seen the original. Or, it could be the fact that the characters are shoddily written and follow a ham-handed plot that consists of a series of ever-more unlikely and obnoxious action scenes.

The movie begins with a sequence that was probably originally created to be a standalone short. Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel eternally in pursuit of the elusive perfect nut is attempting to bury his treasure in a glacier. It's the same joke they've had running through the series, and it's cute. Jamming his nut in the ice causes a giant rift to form, dropping Scrat deep into the bowels of the earth. Eventually he hits the center of the planet, a floating ball of iron ore. Scrat, still chasing the nut, begins spinning the ball like a treadmill, causing the Earth's rotation to change and all the continents to suddenly break apart into their current configuration.

I'd seen it before a year or so ago, and it's pretty funny. This little animated joke, however, forms the premise for the entire movie as, out in the rest of the world, the main characters are dealing with the actual fallout from Scrat's obsession. I guess complaining about a ridiculous lack of scientific fact in a movie like this is beside the point. Our heroes, Manny, an angsty mammoth voiced by Ray Romano, Sid, an obnoxious sloth with a lisp voiced by John Leguizamo, and Diego, a put-upon sabre-toothed tiger voiced by Denis Leary, find themselves adrift after a massive continental shift causes the ice shelf to break off the edge of the landmass where they, and the rest of their odd conglomeration of animal family, are residing. Now the guys have to figure out a way to make it back to the herd before the rapidly moving cliff wall that's advancing across the land shoves everybody into the sea.

To make matters worse, there's a terrifying pirate/gorilla creature named Captain Gutt who, along with his motley crew, is determined to either enslave our heroes or just make matters very difficult for them, for no real reason. Will Manny make it back in time to deal with his obnoxious teen daughter before she runs off with a crew of vapid mean girl mammoths and their hipster leader? Will Sid learn to love his obnoxiously sassy grandmother? Will Diego find love with his deadly rival, a female tiger who somehow manages to stay silky and beautiful among a crew of disgusting, smelly buccaneers? Will this movie ever end?

To be honest, I can't really say the movie was particularly offensive. There were fart jokes and the like, but nothing particularly edgy that would be inappropriate for little guys. My two seemed to really enjoy it, actually. But, looking back over what I've written, I see the word "obnoxious" appearing again and again. Obnoxiousness is its own kind of offensiveness, and is a quality I don't want my kids to emulate. The movie is obnoxious and, unlike most Pixar films, gives you the feeling that you're trapped in a room with dozens of pre-schoolers for hours on end. A little of that can be cute, but an hour-and-a-half of it is a bit much. I like our kids' movies to send us away with something more than we came in with, be it a special experience or a lesson. Sure, "Ice Age" has a moral: Families are good; pirates are bad. But did I need to sit for nearly two hours to learn that?

I laughed a couple of times, sure, but overall the movie was a bust for me. Like I said, the kids liked it, but I hope it doesn't cause me more trouble in the long run than it was worth.

On the other hand, there was a nice surprise in the movie. Or before it, rather. After the previews, there was a cartoon short prior to the beginning of the main show. The short starred the "Simpsons," which initially set me on edge as, though I enjoy that cartoon, I don't want my 4-year-old watching it. Surprisingly, the short was very well done, dealing with little Maggie's first day of daycare. I won't give the rest away because, as a whole, it was actually a very pretty and moving little piece of cinema. And, luckily, my children seemed far more taken with it than with the rest of the movie, so maybe I'm doing something right. I try hard to expose them to quality films instead of dreck, and though I don't get it right every time, I realized while watching "Continental Drift," that the hard work is worth it, if only to keep myself from having to sit through movies like this.

Grade: D

"Ice Age: Continental Drift" is rated PG for some rude humor and frightening scenes.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.