IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 94 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
As Scrat the squirrel’s pursuit of his acorn triggers the break-up or the Pangaea land mass into the continents as we know them today, we re-encounter Manny the mammoth, Diego the sabre-toothed tiger and Sid the sloth. Manny and his wife Ellie’s 14 year old daughter Peaches has an admirer in the form of a molehog called Louis, but she only has eyes for another mammoth called Ethan, who hangs around with the ‘cool kids’, and goes off to hang out with them, causing Manny and Peaches to fall out. Then, the breakup of the continent separates Manny from his family, with Manny getting stuck on a floating ice raft with Sid, Diego, and Sid’s annoying grandmother Granny, while a large moving landmass drives Ellie, Peaches and all the other animals towards a land bridge…….
So it’s the fourth instalment in a series which said it was going to end with number three, but as with horror franchises, kiddie movie franchises, especially if they are animated, are not to be trusted when they claim the series has ended. In any case, I’m very fond of the Ice Age series, with its great three main characters; Manny the grouchy mammoth, Diego the wimpy sabre-tooth tiger and Sid the stupid sloth; cutting-edge CG animation, constant laughs and just a little bit of heart in there too. It’s easy to understand why the films have been so popular and even with adults, with the evening showing I attended full of adult attendees with no children. Of course the first movie in the series was the best and the sequels have tended to up the humour at the expense of some of the other elements, but this fourth outing is a worthy addition and the best since number one. It’s an incredibly fast paced, action packed and constantly funny ride which isn’t dull for a minute.
Of course we open with Scrat the squirrel chasing his acorn, and these scenes, which are inserted into the main narrative of each film, are always wonderful, but they reach new heights of invention in this one when the poor animal finds himself at the earth’s core and accidently causes the break-up of Pangaea, which was originally the only land mass on Earth until it split into the various continents we have today. Nice to have a bit of education for the nippers in a film like this, but we don’t waste time and soon hurtle into what comes across as a variation on the raft-down-a-mountain scene in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, and quite thrilling it is too. The film references are actually quite minimal in this one; you will notice The Last Of The Mohicans and a few others, but Ice Age 4, for the most part, prefers to riff on conventions or do something new with familiar scenes.
The picture stalls for a little with much emphasis on Manny’s daughter Peaches and the typical teen movie situation of her after someone who is probably not suitable for her while her best friend pines after her, though some might say that one of the series’ greatest strengths is that it creates situations which are relatable. Anyway, from here on Ice Age 4 plays like a bonkers version of a Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, an action-filled nautical adventure where our stranded main protagonists battle everything from pirates, whose ape leader at one point bursts into song in a not dissimilar manner to The Jungle Book’s King Louis, to some of the best sirens ever done on screen, hideous fish- like monsters who lure their victims by taking on the form of their object of desire. Of course all this is done with constant humour, most of which certainly hit my funny bone, especially when it involved an incredibly dumb seal henchman [played by Nick Frost and actually funny] who soon made me crack up just by him appearing, and Granny, the funniest old lady in years.
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed Ice Age 4, which certainly delivers on most of the elements you would expect and delivers them well, though for a while it does seem to borrow from Happy Feet 2 when half the characters are trapped in a valley and overall there isn’t much originality story wise. The 3D is fairly good for the animals in some scenes but pretty pointless otherwise [I actually saw the 3D version by mistake thinking it was the 2D]. The ”family is best” message is perhaps overdone throughout the whole series but it’s a good one, though it’s some of the laughs which remain in my mind more, from the hilarious sight of Granny, tied by a rope to a post by the pirates, walking round and round it saying “”this is the best vacation ever”, to the accidental destruction of Atlantis. The film also ends on a nice touch by showing the cast doing their voices as their names come up during the credits.