Published Jul 12, 2012Back in 2002, the original Ice Age featured a progressive storyline, with a ragtag trio of unlikely companions – mammoth Manny (Ray Romano); sloth Sid (John Leguizamo); and Smilodon Diego (Denis Leary) – coming together to help return a human baby to its parents. Secondary characters were homosexual and the general dynamic involved forging bonds regardless of species, race, gender or orientation.
Two mediocre sequels and ten years later, the fourth Ice Age film features the same trio of companions finding solace in an entirely traditionalist, heteronormative vacuum, fighting against a ragtag, countercultural group of pirates (led by Captain Gutt, voiced by Peter Dinklage) to maintain family stability and a general Judeo-Christian status quo.
Manny is separated from his family during a tumultuous time – his daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer), is bowing to peer pressure and rejecting parental authority – due to the titular continental drift, which was caused by an acorn fissure at the hands of Scrat.
Diego's quest is similarly one of traditional male responsibility, wherein his independent bachelor ways are sated and replaced by routine monogamy when Shira (Jennifer Lopez) arrives on the scene as a member of the antagonist pirate gang. Even Sid tackles familial longing and responsibility when his estranged family dumps his senile grandmother (Wanda Sykes) on him.
Amidst this overly preachy didactic, reinforcing the implicit cultural fear of traditional breaks noted in Conservative, superficial times, are jokes that rarely hit the mark and clumsy dialogue that's way too on the nose and unnatural. It's a weirdly contradictory regression of substance in the face of aesthetic progression, with the 3D visuals and exceedingly detailed animation making the original film look like Saturday morning TV garbage.
The visual whimsy of Scrat and his acorn-related shenanigans work in their own right, popping up throughout the film to inject some delightful action to an endless series of stale jokes and recycled, antiquated tropes that indirectly imply the dread of difference. At the end of it all there's very little that leaves a lasting impression, other than the bizarre message that piracy is leading to the dissolution of the family unit, which might at least give some adult viewers an unintended snicker.
And should you wind up taking your kid to this movie, it might be a good idea to rush out of the theatre just as every storyline neatly ties up to avoid the dreadful and oppressive "We Are" end credit musical number. (Fox)