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'Ice Age' outings wearing thin

7:18 PM, Jul. 11, 2012
Familiar characters and familiar storyline in 'Ice Age: Continental Drift' make it fun but forgettable.
Familiar characters and familiar storyline in 'Ice Age: Continental Drift' make it fun but forgettable. / AP

‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’

Star rating:★ ★
Rated: PG


They keep pumping out more “Ice Age” movies, as if it were some sort of “Rocky” for kids or something, and if they never reach the heights of the best animated fare, they chug along efficiently.

That’s certainly true of “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” the fourth film in the franchise, directed by Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier. Nothing new under the prehistoric sun here, really — the same guys having another adventure, facing down danger with some pretty big stars delivering some pretty funny lines (and some not so funny) along the way. At one point, recapping some previous adventures, a character says, “And we fought dinosaurs. It didn’t make any sense but it was fun.”

And that’s about the size of it.

This time around Scrat, the little creature forever chasing an acorn in all of the films, sets the plot in motion — and returns throughout. Since he’s the worst thing about the “Ice Age” movies, that’s not a good thing. His lust for the acorn leads, however improbably, to the creation of the continents. And while on the long-term evolutionary scale that’s a good thing, for the “Ice Age” gang, it’s not. The cracking earth separates Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo), from most of their family and friends, shipping them out to sea on a piece of ice along with newcomer Granny (Wanda Sykes), Sid’s addled grandmother.

The trick is to get back, difficult enough on a rudderless hunk of ice. But it’s made even more so by pirates using an iceberg as their ship. They’re led by Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), who did not get his name because of his belly; the reasons are more nefarious. Among his motley crew is Shira (Jennifer Lopez), a saber-toothed tiger. Just like Sid! Wonder where this might lead. There is a nod to Homer’s “Odyssey” with the quick inclusion of the Sirens, but don’t get your hopes up — it’s just one of many plot elements tossed out along the way, not part of a larger narrative.

Meanwhile, back on land, or what’s left of it, Manny’s wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) has to not only take care of their daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer), but nurse her through her first crush. She likes Ethan (Aubrey Graham, better known as Drake), one of the cool mammoth kids.

Other new additions include Nicki Minaj as a shallow mammoth friend of Ethan’s, and Patrick Stewart as Ariscratle, the top of the evolutionary scale of whatever Scrat is.

It’s all well done and cute and forgettable. Dinklage has a lot of fun as Gutt — he even gets to sing — and the returning cast of characters is reliably solid. One of these days extinction will win out, but don’t be surprised if there are a couple more “Ice Age” movies.

In a move that shows either confidence or a lack of good sense, every showing of “Ice Age: Continental Drift” is preceded by “The Longest Daycare,” a short film starring Maggie Simpson of “The Simpsons.” It’s terrific.

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