|The Pleistocene pals are at it again in “Ice Age 4.”|
It’s no secret that “Ice Age 4” has received a lukewarm, if not frigid critical reception, but silly critics, “Ice Age 4” is for kids!
Grownups might rather stay home and watch “The Artist,” but it might warm their hearts to know that “Ice Age 4” is lively and fun to watch. The environment in which the characters find themselves, with plate tectonics shifting the world’s land masses, is inhospitable, but the characters themselves are not.
While there’s no mistaking that this is a sequel, with that unshakeable feeling of picking up where we left off and landing in the middle of something already in progress, “Ice Age 4” melts away the inevitable low expectations its audience might have for it by this point in the franchise.
For starters, the opening is priceless, with Scrat the squirrel up to his usual oblivious antics in his relentless search for acorns. This time, his pursuit changes the face of the planet, and all prehistoric peril breaks loose.
This fourth installment finds the familiar trio of Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the sabor-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid the sloth (a lisping John Leguizamo) struggling to find their way home as the continents divide. They are stopped in their watery tracks when they encounter the primate pirate Captain Gutt (voiced with delicious malice by Peter Dinklage).
Pirates in the ice age give new meaning to “shiver me timbers.” True, the pirate theme has been done to death and should probably be forced to walk the plank, but kids never get tired of it, and there’s not a children’s series in existence that hasn’t taken advantage of it.
The storyline is perhaps nothing special. “Ice Age 4” is all about silliness, but the goal was never to have the depth of a Pixar film. It’s all about making kids bust a gut (even naming a character after the same). Mission accomplished with mildly rude jokes like Sid’s shocked “Holy crab!” reaction at yes, wait for it, a giant crab.
Manny’s overprotective father struggling with his little girl Peaches (Keke Palmer) growing up has been played out in every family sitcom since “Growing Pains.” While predictable, who better than sitcom superstar Ray Romano to make it work? “Ice Age 4” is a series of goofy vignettes, with a generous amount of hilarious if a tad agist humor thrown in by newcomer to the franchise Wanda Sykes, who plays Sid’s decrepit sloth granny. (“It’s like having a child, only without any of the joy,” declares Diego about her presence.)
The visuals are dynamic and eye catching in 3D. While not capturing the fine detail of a film like “Brave,” the bright colors and flashy images are perfect for the broad slapstick comedy that it is. Based on the ending, I have a feeling we aren’t drifting any closer to the end of the franchise with “Ice Age 4.”
Reel Mama’s rating: Appropriate for five and up. Pirate “booty” jokes will make the kids have a giggle fest as parents struggle to suppress laughs. There isn’t much sexy stuff to speak of, but there is a scene in which each character is “seduced” by his image of the perfect woman when they encounter creatures known as Sirens. It’s as harmless as Bugs Bunny in drag. Captain Gutt’s fantasy girl, to quote a phrase from Chris Rock in “Madagascar 3,” is “roach-killin’ ugly.” Peaches has a crush on a “hot” thrill-seeking mammoth jock, but it’s just mammoth-sized puppy love. There are a few intense moments that might be too much for four and under (the Sirens with their flashing images as they return to reality are disturbing, and Captain Gutt cracks a whip.)
Maybe I’ll be the lone voice in the arctic wilderness for liking it, but it wouldn’t be the first time.