The original film which began the Ice Age franchise, in 2002, was a rather low-key, almost poignant affair, by animated kids-movie standards. It was the story of three prehistoric mammals—Manny the mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger, and Sid the sloth, voiced respectively by Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo, trying to return a foundling human baby to his family.
Leguizamo’s lisping nurturer of a sloth was goofy and funny, but the real laughs came from an on-the-margin subplot involving Scrat, a sort of sabre-toothed squirrel-raccoon who speaks in dismayed squeaks and clucks and the occasional anguished wail, and his perpetual, perpetually frustrated attempts to secure his beloved acorn.
It was a sweet, offbeat picture, and a hit, spawning three sequels, each gaudier, more whimsical and less concerned with paleontological accuracy then the last. In the newest, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Scrat’s travails with his acorn directly—and hilariously—result in the break-up of the continents. In the resulting apocalypse, Manny, Diego, Sid and Sid’s grandmother (Wanda Sykes) end up at sea on an iceberg, where they eventually encounter another iceberg carrying a crew of scurvy piratical creatures led by a maniacal primate, Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage).
Meanwhile, Manny’s mate Ellie (Queen Latifah) and daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) try to get their herd out of the way of the approaching continent. More importantly, Peaches struggles with her first crush.
Ice Age: Continental Drift is very silly, but sweet and colorful, with strong performances—Dinklage and Sykes are entertaining additions to the company. As with the other films in the series, the prologue, featuring Scrat, is the best part, and it’s already played in theatres, as a short before last year’s Rio.
Continental Drift, in turn, is preceded by The Longest Daycare, a terrific Simpsons short, featuring baby Maggie—it’s about Maggie’s heroic efforts to save a butterfly from a sadistic classmate at “The Ayn Rand School for Tots.” Grownups may find it the highlight of the bill.