With Kung Fu Panda 2 among my very favourite films of 2011, my love for animations knows no bounds. I don’t even let my reasonable fear of stampeding pre-teens put me off. One of my favourite series of recent years is Ice Age, the first of which appeared a full decade ago in 2002. During that time we’ve come to love Manny andd Ellie (the mammoth match made in heaven), Sid the sloth with less than ideal personal hygiene, whose hollow brain is more than made up for by his big fat heart, and Scrat, the squirrel who is even more trouble than those who pinch your birdseed. This weekend, Fox has screened previews of Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, ahead of its proper proper release on 13 July. I snapped up a ticket and so found a brief reprieve from the 2012 Summer of Sport.
The story is as complicated as one would expect from Ice Age 4 and, as usual, it pays to put to one side one’s understanding of palaeontology and geology. It’s still the Ice Age but, thanks to Scart, the continents have split with great violence and as they shift Manny is put adrift on an iceberg, torn away from Ellie (Queen Latifah voices) and their daughter (Keke Palmer), riding on the crest of a tidal wave. Ellie and teen mammoth Peaches with the other survivors must head for a land bridge to escape being squashed by the rapidly approaching continent cliff.
For much of the time we follow Manny (Ray Romano), who is marooned alongside Sid (John Leguizamo), Sid’s toothless, fruit sucking granny (Wanda Sykes) and Diego the sabretooth (Denis Leary). There’s not much they can do then when their berg is spotted by the greedy and nasty Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), a Pirate Primate with a mean streak that doesn’t stop with his enemies. Meanwhile, a long way away, Ellie and Peaches haven’t just got to survive the potential end of the world, they also have to cope with Peaches’ growing pains and burgeoning hormones. Cleaning up the mess is Louis (Josh Gad), some kind of mole creature who has more common sense and loyalty than animals fifty times his size.
The jokes come thick and fast, the visual gags come even thicker, and, while many of them are at the expense of Sid, the less than focused sloth, the fun spreads in Ice Age 4 thanks to Captain Gutt’s crew. Quite apart from Shira (Jennifer Lopez), a snow tiger that didn’t half remind me of Angelina Jolie’s Tigress in Kung Fu Panda, there is a mean looking rabbit and even meaner kangeroo and a delightfully ugly and unpleasant elephant seal Flynn (Nick Frost). They can even sing… Possibly they shouldn’t but they can. Another charm though is Granny. She might suck fruit but there’s more going on in that withered furry wreck of a body than meets the eye.
This is where we find most of the humour and the fun. The parallel story of Peaches and her Mean Girls story of winning the boy while winning over the girls in class is a little too familiar and predictable to please too much. I also spent far too much time wondering why the mammoths’ ears were so small.
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is a truly beautiful animation. I saw it in 3D and it only served to enhance the stunningly realistic environments. The water, whether as a pool or as a great ocean rocked by tidal waves, is perfectly realised. Our heroes and villains, likewise, have barely a digital hair, feather or scale out of place.
Scrat’s adventures continue to astound with their earth shattering consequences. If ever a creature is doomed for extinction it’s this one. But, hopefully, not yet.