ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT 3D (PG)
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I SOMETIMES wonder if it's worth reviewing a children's film because the children will scream and shout until you take them to see it anyway, so it doesn't really matter whether it's any good or not.
But any film that takes million of pounds at the box office probably should be critiqued, if only on principle, so here goes.
The fourth instalment of the Ice Age saga sees the return of all the familiar characters — Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) and, still with us, despite being a bit long in the sabre tooth, Diego (Denis Leary).
Centre stage and responsible for the entire story line is Scrat the Squirrel (Chris Wedge) whose acorn-chasing antics result in a seismic shift in the Earth's tectonic plates, causing an earthquake which separates our heroes from their loved ones and sets them off on a new adventure, which vaguely resembles all the ones they have had before but with a new band of weird and wonderful characters joining in the fun along the way.
These include a band of seafaring ruffians, led by an orangutan Pirate King, Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage). And, finally, Diego gets his own love interest, in the form of Shira (Jennifer Lopez), a white tiger who gives Diego much to think about.
There comes a point, mid-way through the film, where you begin to wish that all the new characters would disappear and let us concentrate on the more familiar ones but I suspect that they are an intentional distraction in an attempt to cover up the fact that the story line is a bit lame and the script much weaker than previous efforts.
It's not nearly as subtle in its humour as Ice Age One was, nor is it as funny but it does have adventure aplenty and fires along at rocket pace, so none of its weaknesses will be noticed by the young ones who will love the sight gags, which are the film's strength.
So, as Manny, Diego and Sid, and Sid's granny (Wanda Sykes) float around on their little iceberg searching for Ellie (Queen Latifah) and the now teenage Peaches (Keke Palmer), expect lots of fun and thrills but little value placed on the environmental concerns of the earlier films and more emphasis placed on the value of family, and caring for one another which isn't a bad lesson to be teaching our children but loses some of the weight and charm that made the original so extraordinary.
Co-directors Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who) and Michael Thurmeier just about keep the plot above water amid much confusion and mayhem but a positive is that the animation by Fox's Blue Sky Studios has improved with each film in the series, and the animation in this one is quite superb in its detail.
So although this effort may be skating on slightly thin ice, it will delight the kids and there is enough to entertain adults — including the Simpsons short that precedes the film.
Disappointing compared to the previous movies but the audience it is aimed at won't give a squirrel's nut.