While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Tomorrow, American audiences will be reunited with one of their favorite movie duos of recent years: Harold Lee and Kumar Patel, returning to theaters for their third film installment, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas. Although we'll be reunited with plenty of characters from the first two films, we'll also be meeting a few new ones, including Danny Trejo as Harold's very intimidating father-in-law, Mr. Perez. This got us thinking about a few other not-so-preferable in-laws from movies past: the manipulative, the violent, the absolutely no-holds-barred insane. We've compiled a list of a few of the most memorable in-laws we're all glad we don't have in our families.
Monster-in-Law: Charlotte Cantilini vs. Viola Fields
Fathers may look intimidating from a physical point of view, but it’s nothing compared to what the mothers can mentally bring to the table.
Charlotte has finally met the man of her dreams and is on her way to pure wedding bliss—until her fiancée’s mother tries to get in the way. Jane Fonda does an incredible job of portraying any wife’s worst nightmare: the controlling mother-in-law. Not wanting to be replaced as the number one woman in her son’s heart, Fonda’s character does everything in her power (from mind games to guilt trips) to stop the marriage from happening. It’s an in-law nightmare to the fullest extent, but then again no one ever said marriage was going to be easy, right? Future brides beware—there’s nothing more powerful than a mother’s pull over her son.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Ian Miller vs. The Entire Family
This movie focuses on a different kind of intimidation entirely in that it’s based off of sheer volume. While Toula is trying to come to terms with her heritage and cultural identity, her non-Greek fiancée, Ian, struggles to gain acceptance from her family…and I mean her entire family.
The title doesn’t lie, this family is huge, meaning there’s just so many of them it’s hard to keep them all straight. They’re loud, they’re opinionated, and they’re none too thrilled that Toula is going against tradition and marrying a man who isn’t Greek. Have you ever tried to convince a traditional family that one of their traditions isn’t that important? Not an easy feat, but if Ian ever wants to truly be considered a member of the family he needs to find a way to worm himself into their hearts and dinner tables (which are crowded enough to begin with). No pressure or anything. As the saying goes, you’re not marrying just one person – you’re marrying the entire family.
Armageddon: A.J. Frost vs. Harry Stamper
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Bruce Willis’ character walks around an oil rig, shooting at Ben Affleck’s character after finding out he’s been sleeping with his daughter. Talk about intimidation!
Bruce Willis himself already give
s off a “don’t mess with me” vibe, so adding a gun into the mix only further increases the fear factor. Now technically at this point these two characters aren’t related quite yet, but the father-in-law/son-in-law dynamic remains constant between these two characters throughout the entire duration of the film. It’s the usual dilemma many fathers eventually face: nobody is good enough to marry their little girl. And since both men are stubborn and natural born leaders, talking becomes a rather difficult task for the two of them (yelling doesn’t count). Granted, their relationship gets a little too extreme to be entirely believable (hopefully no guy has had their father-in-law use him for target practice), but the protective fatherly instincts are both understandable and relatable—just maybe not gun worthy.
Son-in-Law: Pauly Shore vs. the Entire Midwest
When Pauly Shore’s Crawl (that’s his name, not some kind of Bay Area rave dance) ventures to the rural Midwestern hometown of his college girlfriend, Rebecca Warner, he is not exactly the most welcome newcomer to the farmlands. Crawl is rude, idiotic, sex-starved, infantile, selfish and unwilling to adapt to the modest and dignified lifestyle of the townspeople. Mr. and Mrs. Warner alike are both threatened and disgusted by their houseguest, and can’t stomach the idea of him producing a grandchild with their only daughter.
And who can blame them. When their small town values get tossed asunder by this ineloquent tourist, it’s mystifying that they don’t run him out of town with an angry mob. But then again, he does teach them the latest slang. Where would the Warners be without “grubbage” in their vocabulary?
The Birdcage: The Goldman Family vs. Sen. Kevin Kealy
There’s bound to be one intolerant member in every family. But when Val Goldman, son of prominent gay nightclub owners Armand and Albert, becomes engaged to the daughter of an openly homophobic United States Senator…that’s pushing the limits. Devoted to making their son happy, Armand and Albert pretend to be something they are not in order to appease the bigoted senator at a family dinner and win his approval of Val for his daughter. However, it’s not long before the charade is blown, and the true, despicable feelings are let loose.
Before Kealy came along, Val and his fathers cherished their blissful, loving family unit. It was only when the menacing figure stepped into their lives that Val did profess any shame for the sort of parents he had. Now that's an intimidating in-law. It doesn’t take long for him to realize what truly matters, however. The senator may be an intimidating menace, but he’s no match for the Goldman family’s love.
The In-Laws: Sheldon Kornpett vs. Vincent Ricardo
Most troublesome in-law situations deal directly with at least one of the parties involved in the new marriage. The classic comedy film The In-Laws, however, illustrates the trouble that can occur between the extended families—specifically, the respective fathers of the bride and groom. Now, getting along with an in-law might be a troublesome feat in a normal circumstance. But when one is a supposed government operative who drags you along on his death-defying schemes? That’s none too easy to get past.
Sheldon Kornpett is a mild-mannered dentist whose life gets twisted out of shape when his daughter marries the son of Vincent Ricardo, a secret agent without much of a regard for his or Sheldon’s life. In the days surrounding the wedding, Ricardo ropes Sheldon into some high-risk globetrotting adventures—none of which Sheldon, a simple dentist, ever signed up for. Sure, it makes for interesting wedding toast material, but a maniacal action-hero (or antihero) like Vincent Ricardo is not exactly the sort of man you want coming over for family dinners every other weekend.
Meet the Parents: Greg Focker vs. Jack Byrnes
The mother of all father-in-laws is Jack Byrnes, the possessive, untrusting retired CIA agent who makes one simple weekend (and two very profitable sequels) hell for his daughter’s boyfriend/husband, Greg Focker. Most potential in-laws stick to passive-aggressive hostility, or roundabout manipulation to make the whole idea of courting their family members an unbearable experience. Jack Byrnes’ endeavors in this field are a tour de force. He employs verbal intimidation, threats, actual physical violence, and a vast array of high tech spy equipment—not excluding polygraph machines.
And what is perhaps the worst thing about Jack? He never seems to take a liking to Greg. Sure, each movie ends with him swallowing his pride and giving his poor victim a pat on the back…but things are right back to the way they began come Act I of the next movie. Let’s just hope, for Greg Focker’s sake, that he won’t be suffering through any fourquels or fivequels…otherwise, that marriage might be on thin ice.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Prince vs. The Evil Queen
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most intimidating in-law of them all? Even Disney stories can’t catch a break with the in-laws. The pressure pretty much doubles when you’re dealing with royal families since so much is at stake and they don’t want their children partnering up with someone that could ruin their kingdom (I assume since I can’t really speak from experience). But this relationship was doomed to be fraught with intimidation.
It’s really hard to really establish a bond with your mother-in-law when she keeps trying to kill your wife. It just tends to put a damper on things, even in the animated world. The Evil Queen makes all other in-laws look like a walk in the park. Granted, she was a step-mother, but that still counts since she was basically the only family Snow White had left. It’s your basic hero-villain dynamic, so they never really stood much of a chance of making nice with one another and you can forget about any family dinners (especially anything with apples).