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]
In honor of surfing classics such as Endless Summer and Step Into Liquid Surf's Up winks at the genre as it focuses on a bunch of penguins before during and after a prestigious surfing contest. Penguins you say? Why of course! They make excellent surfers. Followed by a camera crew to document his experiences teenage Rockhopper penguin Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf) an up-and-coming surfer from Shiverpool Antarctica gets his big chance when he’s recruited to participate in the Big Z Memorial Surf Off on Pen Gu island. Along the way Cody meets Midwestern surfer Chicken Joe (Jon Heder) famous surf promoter Reggie Belafonte (James Woods) surf talent scout Mikey Abromowitz (Mario Cantone) and spirited lifeguard Lani Aliikai (Zooey Deschanel). Cody is anxious to show everyone his skills—even if they are a bit misguided at times—and to pay homage to his hero the late great surfing legend Big Z. But the true test comes when Cody happens upon a fat washed-up surfer named Geek (Jeff Bridges)--who looks suspiciously like Cody’s idol—and discovers that a real winner isn’t always the one who comes in first. Surf's Up is one of those occasions in which an animated film features A-list vocal talents who don’t just add color they actually embody the characters. Robin Williams’ genie in Aladdin and Ray Romano’s woolly mammoth in Ice Age are a few who come to mind. Now we have LaBeouf and Bridges as the young and old penguin surfin’ dudes. LaBeouf who’s simply on fire these days with his hit thriller Disturbia and the upcoming monster hit Transformers does a nice job with his interpretation a penguin who thinks he knows the game but really doesn’t have the first clue. Bridges follows right along as the surly beachcombing recluse an older wiser—and slightly more oily-skinned—version of The Big Lebowski’s The Dude. Also hilarious are Woods as the Don-King look-a-like otter Reggie and Cantone (TV's Sex and the City) as the twittery shorebird recruiter Mikey channeling Jon Lovitz’s spotter from A League of Their Own. Heder’s Chicken Joe is the only character who comes off a little too one note—but then again as a laid-back stoner rooster who loves life the former Napoleon Dynamite is perfectly suited. Damn those Happy Feet—and for that matter March of the Penguins. I mean Surf's Up penguin-based story already has a knock against it. Sure they are cute little fellows but at this point audiences may be saying enough is enough already with this penguin crap. Nevertheless you simply must give Surf's Up a chance because the filmmakers do everything they can to make their movie stand out—and do it very well. First of all a mockumentary never fails to entertain especially with characters addressing the camera directly and the “folk” behind the camera reacting to events. With this style there is the right mixture of humor for adults without too many pop culture references and stuff for the kiddies to understand without it going over their heads. But the best part is how Surf's Up keeps to the look of those surfing documentaries its lovingly emulating. The surfing sequences are just as thrilling to watch as if they were the real thing. Surf's Up shoots you right through the tube.