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]
It's summertime in New Delhi and the monsoon rain is about the only thing that alleviates the season's sweltering heat--heat that comes not only from the sun but also from the lives and loves of the high-spirited Verma family. Stressed-out Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) and his wife Pimmi (Lillete Dubey) are struggling to maintain their moderate standard of living while spending a fortune on a wedding for their daughter Aditi (Vasundhara Das) who would rather continue her affair with her married lover than wed the young man chosen for her Hemant (Parvin Dabas). Still unmarried liberated cousin Ria (Shefali Shetty) is the most outspoken one of the family but has nevertheless kept a terrible family secret involving Uncle Tej (Rajat Kapoor) to herself for many years. Sexy extroverted teenage cousin Ayesha (Neha Dubey) begins a steamy undercover flirtation with distant Westernized relative Rahul (Randeep Hooda) who has been living in Australia. Meanwhile never a bridegroom always a coordinator wedding planner P.K. Dubey (Vijay Raaz) finds that love sneaks up on him when he falls for the family's sweet young servant Alice (Tilotama Shome).
These actors are so believable it's like you're a fly on the wall watching them interact in their Delhi home. Shah the embattled father Lalit is one of India's foremost actors with four best actor FilmFare Awards (the Indian equivalent of the Oscar) to his credit and he carries this movie just like a father shoulders his family's trials and tribulations. The girls are all terrific particularly Shetty who steals the show as the freethinking young woman who stands up to her relatives. The doll-like Das captivates as the shy troubled bride whose enormous blue eyes show great emotion. Shome as servant girl Alice has perhaps the fewest lines in the movie but her expressions convey the allure of a girl becoming a woman. Raaz who has a great talent for physical comedy and who travels the film's greatest character arc is also outstanding; he's sneaky and distasteful at first as the excitable shifty wedding planner Dubey but he ends up as the most loveable character in the movie when it becomes clear he only wants to find someone of his own to love and love him.
Director Mira Nair returns to contemporary India for the first time since her Academy Award-winning 1988 directorial debut Salaam Bombay!. With Monsoon Wedding she makes you feel like you've actually spent two hours in India--from the pouring rain in the lush countryside to the teeming Delhi streets packed with people and every kind of transportation you can imagine to the Verma's modest home that's different yet all too similar to an American home. Wedding is a fascinating look at a slice of life in a family trying to balance Western attitudes with deep-rooted cultural mores--and finding they're often at odds. The film is vibrant and rich offering a real sensory experience through the women's colorful saris the alternation between the sometimes-discordant traditional music and modern techno the back-and-forth of the actors' speech between Hindi Punjabi and English. The handheld camera used to capture it all on film gives even more of an intimate feeling to the production. Only thing is at almost exactly two hours the movie is a little long--the story took place over four days and you feel like you spent that much time in the theater.