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Fossilized fun

Laughs have gone cold in latest Ice Age outing

By DAN LYBARGER SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published July 13, 2012 at 4:22 a.m.

saber-toothed-tiger-diego-voice-of-denis-leary-and-sid-the-sloth-voice-of-john-leguizamo-find-their-world-split-apart-in-ice-age-continental-drift

Saber-toothed tiger Diego (voice of Denis Leary) and Sid the Sloth (voice of John Leguizamo) find their world split apart in Ice Age: Continental Drift.

— Ice Age:

Continental Drift

70 Cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Peter Dinklage, Nick Frost, Wanda Sykes, Patrick Stewart, Chris Wedge

Directors: Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier

Rating: PG, for mild rude humor and action/peril

Running time: 94 minutes

One of the surest signs climate change is upon us may be that Ice Age movies ceased to be fun a long time ago. Now that CGI 3-D animation isn’t so new, it takes more than cute characters and celebrity voices to make an entertaining cartoon. Actually, it took more than that in the past as well, but now it just seems more obvious.

All the old characters are back: Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), his wife, Ellie (Queen Latifah), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the sabertoothed tiger (Denis Leary). The tensions that existed among the characters in earlier installments aren’t there anymore, so it’s hard to get worked up over what catastrophe awaits these prehistoric critters.

At first it simply appears to be that Manny and Ellie’s daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) is a teenager and has a thing for a strapping young mammoth named Ethan (Aubrey Graham). Naturally, Manny is driven nuts by his daughter’s adolescent longings.

Before Manny drives himself to a heart attack trying to save his daughter from perceived dangers, the continents start splitting and drifting apart. Apparently, Scrat the squirrel (series co-creator Chris Wedge) accidentally caused the land division during his seemingly endless quest for acorns.

The sudden change in real estate splits the family, so Manny and Ellie have to lead two different groups of animals to be together again even though the ice and rock formations are heading miles apart in seconds. There’s also a rowdy crew of iceberg-sailing pirates led by the cruel chimp Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage).

Gutt’s crew is pretty sizable, but few leave much of an impression. There’s another tiger (Jennifer Lopez) and some other creatures, but their time on the screen seems to slow down the story rather than move it along. A musical number pops up in the middle of the film simply to give Lopez an opportunity to vocalize — or maybe because screenwriters Michael Berg and Jason Fuchs have run out of ideas.

None of the new characters are all that interesting despite having people like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost providing the voices. Naturally, there’s room open for another assignment, but it’s hard to care. The occasional interludes starring Scrat himself are more enjoyable than the feature.

Curiously, the most enjoyable aspect of Ice Age: Continental Drift is that it opens with a short starring Maggie Simpson titled The Longest Daycare. Because it’s told from the point of view of the youngest member of that yellow-skinned TV family, there’s a sweetness that isn’t always in the series. But there’s a wonderful subversiveness that hasn’t been in the series for a while. The short is still kid-friendly, but adults will howl when they read the signs that Maggie can’t. If you blink, you’ll miss some wonderfully twisted wit.

The story is told in 3-D but with no dialogue. In five minutes, it has more laughs and genuine delight than in all of Ice Age: Continental Drift.

MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 07/13/2012

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