Series somehow staves off extinction

Last updated 13:28 05/07/2012
Ice age 4
THEY'RE BACK: Squint, Shira, Scrat and Gutt in a scene from Ice Age 4: Continental Drift.

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REVIEW: Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. Starring the voices of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez. PG. State Cinema.

No-one could accuse Hollywood movie moguls of being reluctant to squeeze as much money as possible out of a franchise.

Nor could anyone accuse them of not knowing when enough is enough.

Ice Age is a classic example – a trilogy obviously wasn't enough, but this is a franchise that ran out of ideas before the end of the second instalment, and stretched credibility beyond breaking point by resorting to dinosaurs to liven up part three.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is a swing back to reality, up to a point, but the fact remains that this is a franchise that should have gracefully accepted extinction a long time ago.

Along with a family separation (a familiar plot device in animated films by now, which also featured in the first Ice Age), it takes Manny the mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed cat and Sid the sloth off dry land, sending them on a high seas adventure.

Scrat the squirrel is still having a hard time keeping hold of his beloved acorn, but his efforts set off change on a global scale this time, and our heroes find their home being squashed by an advancing continent (which moves at a steady walking pace – it looks ridiculous, but you have to create a sense of danger somehow, and mammoths can't run very fast).

They set off on a trek to safety, but end up marooned on a drifting chunk of ice, separated from Manny's wife and daughter – and things get worse when they encounter a bunch of pirates, led by the ferocious ape Captain Gutt (Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage).

As expected, the standard of the animation has improved several notches, and there are a few good moments – such as Scrat finally seeing all his acorn dreams come true – but otherwise, Ice Age 4's slim plot is padded out with a succession of wild CGI rides, thrills, spills and scraps, and even a pirate song.

The importance of friendship is still the central lesson, but the characters show little development after four films and Ray Romano, as Manny, is still a dull leading man.

There's a bit of sass from Wanda Sykes (who's made a career out of it) as Sid's grumpy, senile granny, and Dinklage has flamboyant fun with his pirate captain role, but Jennifer Lopez's lady saber-tooth (Gut's first mate, and a love interest for Diego) lacks personality – a problem that affects nearly all the supporting cast.

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Producer Blue Sky studios (Robots, Rio) has been overshadowed by Dreamworks and Pixar in the animated feature film stakes, and Ice Age 4 does little to advance its cause.

Little kids should enjoy it, but their parents may find themselves praying for the world to end sooner rather than later.

Fear not – Dreamworks still has a few more Kung Fu Pandas and Madagascars up its sleeve, and may even be able to squeeze something else out of Shrek.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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