Never before has a series been more average than Ice Age. That’s meant neither as a compliment or a criticism, mind you. It’s simply an observation. None of the entries do anything offensively bad, but none of them do anything particularly amazing either. Each installment’s quality is so close to the ones prior that the difference is negligible. The newest entry in one of the blandest franchises ever, Ice Age: Continental Drift, brings more of what we expect: hit-and-miss comedy and action that somehow manages to be both exciting and uninteresting at the same time. It’s impossible to feel anything other than ambivalence towards it, as it does nothing worthy of anger or cheer. It simply plays out before you, ends and life goes on.
Ice Age: Continental Drift once again follows the unruly herd of animals we’ve grown to somewhat enjoy, including mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) and saber-toothed tiger Diego (Dennis Leary), this time as they live through the shifting of the continents. Since the last time we saw them, Manny and Ellie have had a daughter named Peaches (Keke Palmer) who is now a teenager and crushing on Ethan (Drake). When she goes to a dangerous area to see Ethan, Peaches and Manny get in a fight. Soon after, they are separated due to the shifting continents, but vow to find each other again so that the last words they exchange aren’t from a fight. But while Peaches and her mother only need to walk away from the moving mountains, Manny is stranded at sea on a block of ice with his two buddies and Granny (Wanda Sykes), Sid’s grandmother. Eventually, they run into a sea pirate named Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), foil him and steal his ship, to which Gutt vows revenge, following Manny and the gang on their journey home.
Once again, the story revolves around two or more characters being separated from each other and journeying to reunite. Each movie is the same as the last and it’s tiresome. Nearly all of the freshness from this franchise evaporated with the credits of the original Ice Age. Since then, every facet of every movie has felt outdated and overdone, with the sole exception of the Scrat character. Though the most silent of all the characters, he’s by far the most interesting and is instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen an animated movie in the theater over the last 10 years. The lovable squirrel who is always after that elusive acorn is the only thing in the entire franchise that has stood the test of time and still manages to delight while everything around him bores. However, Ice Age: Continental Drift severely limits new screen time for the little guy. I specify “new” because Scrat’s first two segments, including the opening that sparks the entire movie, have been seen before as shorts prior to other films. The filmmakers, in one of the most boneheaded moves I’ve seen in a long time, reused those shorts rather than create new material and much of the joy from seeing Scrat is sucked away in the process. The following Scrat segments don’t bring much to the table either because they’re far too short to be interesting, much shorter than the previous movies.
And just like the previous movies, the action is routine and the comedy fairly standard, aside from one hilarious joke about how the previous movie, where the characters found themselves in an underground dinosaur utopia hidden beneath the ice, didn’t make any sense. But as simple as these movies are, it’s amazing how the smallest things are overlooked. In Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Diego was suffering from a sickness, or old age, or something like that. It wasn’t really explained, even as his vision blurred and breathing grew increasingly heavy. Continental Drift similarly ignores that set-up, never minding the fact that 10 years have passed since we were first introduced to the gang and that many of them should be on a health decline.
There are also some annoying pop culture references in the film as well that, just like the other films, don’t fit into the Ice Age setting, a setting that doesn’t provide a lot of leeway for story development in the first place. But even with all those problems, Ice Age: Continental Drift and, indeed, the rest of the series, doesn’t do anything harmful—it teaches valuable lessons about family, love and friendship and it’s hard to deride it for that—yet it’s so spectacularly unspectacular that it’s hard to muster up anything more than an ambiguous shrug when someone asks about its quality. In a time when animated movies have eclipsed the whole notion of “being just for kids,” Ice Age: Continental Drift has no place.
Ice Age: Continental Drift receives 2/5