Of all of the popular series of computer animated films that have come along in the past decade plus, I’ve always felt that the “Ice Age” series was often dismissed. Which is a shame because, along with the “Toy Story” films, I’ve always thought that they featured the most consistent story and writing excellence as well as a perfect vocal cast. And I’m happy to say that the fourth chapter, “Continental Drift,” continues that excellence.
The film begins with Scrat once again trying to protect his treasured acorn. Over the past decade Scrat has become a rodent Gollum, doing whatever he can to protect his “precious!” He has also become the ice age’s very own Wiley E. Coyote, suffering devastating consequences no matter how smart he thinks he is. While Scrat is dealing with his problems, our three main characters, Manny (Romano), Sid (Leguizamo) and Diego (Leary) are dealing with theirs. An unexpected visit from Sid’s sloth family leaves an unexpected present behind: Grandma (Wanda Sykes). Even more unexpected are the changes taking place in the world around them. Changes that will send the three friends, and their new addition, on a journey they won’t long forget.
Rendered with the beauty one would expect from Blue Sky Studios, the film is a virtual travelogue of the world of the past. Cloud covered mountains overlook clear, rushing rivers while the flowers bloom so bright you can almost smell them. And that beauty is also a vital part of the story. The film deals with the formation of the continents, a formation that separates our familiar friends from their loved ones. As they try to find their way home they come across a band of animal pirates, commanded by their simian leader, Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage). Of course not everyone understands what a baddie the captain is. “Surrender or face my fury,” he demands. “Face your furry what,” asks Sid. Poor Sid.
As usual, the voice actors go above and beyond, breathing believable life into their animated alter egos. In checking back on my reviews of the previous three films, I noticed that I have always continued to praise the work of Ray Romano. And rightly so. He, and his fellow actors, give full and complete performances, which is many times a rarity in animated features. Leary and Leguizamo match Romano line for line. It’s obvious that these actors feel very comfortable in these roles and their familiarity is a plus. Sykes is very funny as Grandma. Like the other actors, she has managed to inject her very distinct personality into the character. Ditto Queen Latifah (Ellie), Jennifer Lopez (Shira the Tiger) and the rest of the vocal cast.
In this day of BIGGER and BETTER, 3D is pretty much standard on films like this. It doesn’t really add much to the story here. In fact, it was much better utilized in the short “Simpsons” cartoon that precedes it. But no matter how you choose to see it, you won’t be disappointed.