Continental Drift left me numb. My children, though, had stronger feelings.
I've recently learned a few things about ice ages. First, owing to the endurance of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, we are still technically in the midst of an ice age that began toward the end of the Pliocene epoch, a hair over two-and-a-half million years ago. But ice ages have colder periods (called "glacials") and warmer ones ("interglacials"). What we typically refer to as "the ice age" is the most recent glacial period, which ended some 10,000 years ago.
I bring this up because, cinematically speaking, the interglacial period we have enjoyed for most of the last three years ends today and a new glacial is upon us, in the form of Ice Age: Continental Drift. And while scientists are not predicting mass species extinctions, it never hurts to prepare for the worst.
What can be profitably said of Ice Age: Continental Drift? That it is the franchise's fourth installment? That I would have been perfectly content if the interglacial period following the third had lasted 10,000 years?
Ice Age: Continental Drift is an Ice Age movie, and those who have seen any of its predecessors will have a reasonably good idea of what to expect. Manny, Sid, Diego and the rest of their burgeoning "herd" take a journey, encounter predators and natural disasters, engage in wacky antics, and learn valuable lessons about friendship and family. I'm sorry to report that Simon Pegg, who was a pleasant vocal surprise as the one-eyed weasel Buck in the last movie, has only a miniscule cameo in this one, and the many new celebrity talents assembled for this outing—Jennifer Lopez, Peter Dinklage, Wanda Sykes, and others—do not make up for his absence. The animation has continued to advance, as it is wont to do, and a few early scenes of avalanche, tidal wave, and tornado, are pretty spectacular. But put the metaphorical gun to my head and I'd say Ice Age: Continental Drift is worse than the first and third franchise iterations and probably on a par with the second.
And that's really all I've got to say on the topic. In an animation era in which making kids movies that also appeal to adults is all the rage, the Ice Age franchise is pretty resolute about making kids movies for kids. And, as it happens, I had two companions at the screening—Tom, 8, and Alex (as in Alexandra), 6—who had considerably stronger opinions regarding the film than I did. Yes, this is the part where I outsource my critical role to my children. If you are the kind of person who (quite understandably) abhors this particular gimmick, you may wish to stop reading now.
So, how does this movie compare to the previous Ice Age movies?
Tom: The best ever.
Alex: The best. Funny and very adventurous.
[I should note here that the views expressed by my children are solely their own, and do not express my views or those of The Atlantic. Also, though my kids are discerning in many respects—for example, when it comes to what they will contemplate eating for any given meal—they have a powerful tendency to believe that any recently concluded activity was "the best ever."]
Who was your favorite character?
Alex: Granny [Sid the sloth's dyspeptic grandmother, voiced by Sykes], because she's so funny.
Tom: I really liked Captain Gutt [the villainous simian pirate voiced by Dinklage]. He was good at fighting, but maybe a little crazy.
What didn't you like about the movie?
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Alex: The head of the pirates shouldn't have been a monkey. He should have been a bear.
Tom: There should have been more with Sid's family.
Tom: I liked it when Scrat was bouncing up and down on the core of the Earth.
Alex: That's how they made the continents, from his running and bouncing. They were just pretending, of course. That's not how it really happened.
Is it just me, or were there echoes of Un Chien Andalou scattered throughout the film?
Alex: [Rolls eyes.]
How did the movie compare to Madagascar 3?
Alex: I think they're tied.
Tom: Maybe this was a little bit better.
What do you think would happen if the Madagascar characters showed up in an Ice Age movie?
Tom: I liked Vitaly in Madagascar 3. He's grumpy because he's a circus tiger who loses his fame and his act when he jumps through a flaming hoop wearing olive oil and catches on fire. If Vitaly were to go into Ice Age, well, he's really good at throwing weapons. So he'd probably be like, 'I'm about to throw a battle-axe at your face, Sid.' And Sid would be like, 'Yeah, that's a good one,' not thinking he was really going to throw it. And then Vitaly would throw the axe about an eighth of a millimeter in front of Sid's face and it would be funny.
But what if it actually hit him?
Tom: What if Obi-Wan really died in Star Wars? Of course the battle-axe misses. There's supposed to be a happy ending.
What about you, Alex?
Alex: I would like it if Alex the lion and the jaguar from Madagascar could go into Ice Age. And while they were on the ship there would be trapezes all across the ocean, so they could trapeze back to dry land and the ship would follow them.
But what would hold up the trapezes?
Alex: There's a rope across the ocean, from the ship to the land, and the trapezes are hanging from that rope.
What do you think the story for the next Ice Age movie should be?
Tom: They're stranded on an island. There's a giant whale sleeping nearby and it snores louder than usual, causing a tidal wave that knocks out most of the island. Then they learn that an asteroid is headed for Earth and is going to land next to the island, knocking out the rest of it. So they ask a seabird—a pelican—if he knows anyone who might be able to help, and he tells them about a stargazer named Billy, who's a molehog. [Don't ask.] So they go looking for the star-gazing molehog Billy, and when they find him, he has a plan. He can predict exactly where the asteroid will hit, and it's near the sleeping whale. So they need to wake up the whale so it will swallow the asteroid. Manny can hold his breath for a long time, so he swims down and wakes up the whale by poking it with a tusk, and it leaps out of the water just as the asteroid arrives and swallows it.
Alex: The characters find another tunnel to go back underground to where there are still dinosaurs. Buck joins them and then they go through another tunnel that takes them forward in time past the ice age to modern times. And they start exploring the country, going to amusement parks and county fairs. Then they go to New York and see the Statue of Liberty. But when they want to go back, they can't remember the way, and it's kind of hard because New York's a big city. But they find this train station, where if you go there it transports you back to the dinosaur times.
That sounds kind of like Prince Caspian. There might be copyright issues.
Alex: This time you have to get on the train and close the doors, and then it will take you back to dinosaur times in like ten seconds. And then they can just go back through the tunnel to the ice age times.
I adore my children, but in the unlikely event that Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox opt for either of these plotlines in any ensuing sequels, I'd like to offer my apologies in advance. In any case, do your best to enjoy the intervening interglacial.