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]
As she lies on what is clearly going to be her deathbed ailing elderly Ann Grant (Vanessa Redgrave) is consumed by memories of a pivotal weekend during her youth. While visiting Newport for her best friend Lila's (Mamie Gummer) lavish wedding aspiring singer Ann (Claire Danes) is torn between the faithful affection of Lila's ne'er-do-well brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy) and the powerful magnetism of Lila and Buddy's childhood friend Harris (Patrick Wilson). Meanwhile in the present Ann's daughters--domestically inclined Connie (Natasha Richardson Redgrave's real-life daughter) and bohemian Nina (Toni Collette)--wrestle with their own issues and prepare to bid their mother goodbye. As past and present mingle secrets are revealed rifts are mended and Ann finally comes to terms with the painful memories she's been living with for 50 years. Evening boasts Hollywood's largest collection of powerhouse actresses since The Hours--which not coincidentally was adapted from a novel by Evening co-screenwriter Michael Cunningham. Stars Danes and Redgrave are both excellent conveying the passionate agony of youth and the melancholy nostalgia of age as effortlessly as you'd expect from A-listers like them. Richardson and Collette also do strong work as do Wilson and Dancy in the two key male roles (Dancy in particular is a stand out; his Buddy is tragically charming). But the film's most pleasant surprise may be Gummer (Meryl Streep's daughter) in her highest-profile role to date. With her mix of touching vulnerability and WASPy steeliness she proves that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: When her famous mom puts in a third-act appearance it's her daughter's performance she has to live up to. But somehow despite the film's literary pedigree (Minot's novel won wide acclaim) and all of the cast's good work Evening doesn't pack the emotional punch it's clearly designed to evoke. Perhaps that's because Ann and Harris' romance is given such relatively meager screen time that it feels more like a hook up than the kind of grand passion you'd cherish for a lifetime. Or because it's hard not to think that the stars' main motivation might be to acquire some new statues for their mantlepieces (let's put it this way--when Glenn Close is playing a bit part you know you're in Oscar-hunting territory). It's great to see talented actresses getting such good roles but when a movie that's clearly meant to be a three-hanky mother-daughter weeper doesn't even inspire a full sniffle something's missing.