Starring Ray Romano, Dennis Leary, John Lequizamo, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifa and Keke Palmer. Written by Michael Berg and Jason Fuchs. Directed by Steve Martino and Mark Theremier. Produced by John C. Donkin and Lori Forte.
Being the sequel to a successful film can be both a good thing and a bad thing. While it's almost a guarantee people will be curious enough to see it, it's certainly not a guarantee they'll like it- in fact, it seems these films are judged more closely and harshly based on the precedent set by the first film. So, given that Ice Age: Continental Drift isn't just a sequel but the fourth installment of Ice Age to be made, the odds aren't exactly in its favor as far as being well-received. And sure, this film may be a reiteration of the gags used throughout the original and relies heavily on formulaic writing, but it's cleverness and solid sense of character make it funny enough to forget this.
If viewed independently, with no comparisons to the first three Ice Age movies, this film is an entertaining, fast-moving children's movie. It's coming of age story follows the patterns of children's movies past- Manny the mammoth (Romano) deals with letting his daughter, Peaches (Palmer) grow up and think for herself, Sid (Lequizamo) learns that Manny and Diego (Leary) will always be there when his family won't and Diego finally allows himself to fall in love. New characters, Shira (Lopez) and Captain Gutt (Dinklage) are introduced and prove to be a fresh addition to the mix as the pirate crew trying to prevent the main characters from returning home after the continental drift separates them from their families. Each character grows in some way and the plot balances each of the story lines exceptionally well, never letting the film become stagnant or unfocused.
Because the majority of the story takes place on a floating iceberg in the middle of the ocean, the impressive CGI showcases its improvement with each installment through its incredibly vivid blue crashing waves and detailed arctic landscape. The design of the characters has only become more elaborate, making their hair, eyes and movements even more life-like than before.
What differentiates this movie from other films in its genre is its ability to overcome the problem of dumbing down the comedy with the misconception that children won't grasp it otherwise. Rather than soften the script with cute, safe humor, the screenwriters went with a mature approach, including witty dialogue and a more complex sense of humor. Diego is a prime example of the type of character not typically seen in kid's movies- he's sarcastic, inappropriate and at times just plain rude, but completely necessary in forming the natural relationship dynamic between characters throughout the movie and in making this movie enjoyable for parents as well as their children. In addition, the characters remain consistent and never change for plot convenience, which is extremely easy to do over the course of four films.
So, some may say they've seen this movie before or that it doesn't live up to the original, and they may be right in some ways, but it doesn't change the fact that it's both satisfying and well-made in and of itself. Many elements from the original have carried over, such as Scrat the squirrel desperately pursuing his nut and Sid the sloth being a klutz, but they serve as more of a running theme that connects the movies than key plot points that the movie centers around. Ice Age: Continental Drift introduces a whole new struggle and its own set of problems for the characters to deal with and ties them together gracefully, making it unfair to claim it's a boring replica or that it doesn't meet the expectations set by the original.