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]
Baseball doesn’t hold quite the same magic as it once did. That’s why they had to set Everyone's Hero in the Depression-era when the New York Yankees ruled the game and their star player Babe Ruth sat on the throne. As the story goes a young boy named Yankee Irving (Jake T. Austin) has to save his dad’s job as a janitor at Yankee Stadium after Ruth’s beloved bat is stolen by the big bad Chicago Cubs owner (Robin Williams) and his lackey (William H. Macy) right before the World Series. Yankee’s dad is blamed for the theft so the kid obsessed with the Babe and doesn’t want his family living in the streets sets out on an adventure to get the bat back. He has some help chiefly from an old forgotten baseball (Rob Reiner) —who was once in the Show but got hit out of the park as a lousy foul ball—and the bat itself nicknamed Darlin’ (Whoopi Goldberg) who sasses her way through the shenanigans. Warms your heart already doesn’t it? It seems everyone’s having a good time. Reiner is particularly cantankerous as Screwie voicing the baseball as if he was an old Jewish man yelling at the kids on the street for making too much noise. Not a whole lot to like about the character but he provides comic foil especially with Goldberg as the pampered bat who knows how kind the real Babe is. For some odd reason Williams is un-credited as the blowhard Cubs owner Napoleon Cross but it’s not too hard to pick out his distinctive voice. Maybe the actor didn’t want to be labeled a bad guy. But Macy is sufficiently wacky as Cross’ henchman and Cubs pitcher Lefty McGinnis who has all manner of bad things happen to him--electrocuted hit by a train you get the picture—as he chases after the kid and the bat. In retrospect slamming a movie co-directed by the late Christopher Reeve as a pet project for his young son (with wife Dana Reeve who died of lung cancer earlier this year providing the voice of Yankee’s mom) seems a tad coldhearted. But unfortunately even with all the heart soul--and apparently lots of time--poured into it Everyone's Hero still comes off as bland and overdone. There’s the same hackneyed dialogue filled with the same feel-good messages (“Have faith in yourself!” “Friends stick together!”) and the same insipid pop tunes peppered throughout. It may have been more interesting if the whole story were told from the baseball’s point of view. How about if ALL the equipment talked--the mitts the bases et. al.--and we saw the game through their eyes? Not bad eh? If only this had been my brain child...