Talking Movies

June 27, 2012

Ice Age 4

The animated misfits Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the sabre-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) find themselves cast adrift on the open seas battling pirates.

Scrat the sabre-toothed squirrel, still engaged in a monomaniacal hunt for acorns, provides the plot of the film by accidentally causing continental drift by mucking about with earth’s core. He falls into the earth’s core by way of elevator muzak playing over a geological chart, a sublimely stupid sight gag. Scrat is a character as deliriously wonderful in his eternal recurrence as Roadrunner and Wily Coyote, but sadly he can’t carry a whole film. And so we have the main plot wherein Manny’s protective parenting leads to a falling out with his daughter Peaches, who says horrible things to him just before the continents breaking apart separates Manny from his family. Manny swears to return but he, Diego and Sid float out to sea on a sort of iceberg where they fall foul of the vicious monkey pirate Captain Gut.

Peter Dinklage voices Gut with some panache, and leads a musical number explaining his pirate life which is quite fun, but overall the laughs don’t come as frequently in this movie as you’d like. All the scenes involving Peaches, Lewis, and the too cool for school mammoths she desperately wants to befriend are quite irritating to watch as the by the numbers script is every bit as computer generated as the animation bringing it to life. It’s hard to know which is more excruciating, the dialogue or the vocal stylings of the cast playing these teen characters. The message it hammers home is incredibly unsubtle even by CGI animation standards and might as well have ‘character arc’ and ‘life lesson’ flashing up on screen. Against this is surprisingly effective voice casting like Jennifer Lopez as Gut’s loyal sabre-toothed tiger Sheera.

Ice Age 4 is a curious beast. Sid summarises Ice Age 3 for his long-lost grandmother with the words, “We fought dinosaurs in the Ice Age. It didn’t make any sense but it was sure exciting,” and Nick Frost has a lot of fun as Flint the idiotic pirate seal, playing a major part in delivering some fantastic wordplays which are the smartest jokes in the movie. Against this sophistication there’s the quite tasteless depiction of Sid’s grandmother who is effectively suffering from Alzheimer’s but is considered therefore to be a goldmine for comedy. If you think Diego’s retort to her search for Precious, “No I have not seen your imaginary or deceased pet,” is funny then you won’t have a problem with this characterisation by Wanda Sykes. The emphasis on teenage problems is also baffling for a kid’s film.

Ice Age 4 has odd touches but it’s far more likeable than its accompanying Maggie Simpson short, written by a farcically large writing team.


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