In “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” Pangaea is cracking up and sending the continents around the planet — but that’s nothing compared to the daddy-daughter rift that’s at the heart of this by-the-numbers fourth installment of the animated franchise.
Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) is a family man now. He and his wife, Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah), now have a teen daughter, Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer), who frequently disobeys Daddy to hang out with her fellow teen mammoths.
After an argument, Peaches yells, “I wish you weren’t my father” — and the planet obliges her with an earthquake that separates Manny and the franchise’s other original characters, sloth Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo) and saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary), from everyone they love. (Oh, Sid’s Granny, voiced by a scene-stealing Wanda Sykes, is also along for the ride.)
While Ellie leads the remaining animal herd away from the approaching land mass destroying their home, Manny & Co. vow to get back from across the ocean. Soon they encounter an iceberg populated by pirates, a scurvy animal crew led by the gold-toothed baboon Captain Gut (voiced by Peter Dinklage). A battle of wills ensues between Gut and Manny, while Gut’s feline first mate, Shira (voiced by Jennifer Lopez), finds her loyalties tested when she and Diego start falling for each other.
The script, by Michael Berg (now on his fourth “Ice Age” movie) and Jason Fuchs, makes not a whit of sense, shifting unsteadily from crude humor to forced sentimentality. They also toss in random references to sirens and Atlantis, adding mythology to the list of subjects — evolution, geology, climate science — in which the “Ice Age” crew has the same grasp as your less-reputable charter schools.
Meanwhile, directors Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier try to spice up this withering franchise with the lamest trick in animation: stunt voice casting. That’s why you see pop idols Nicki Minaj and Drake in the movie’s marketing – even though their roles, as Peaches’ teen mammoth pals, are limited.
Usually the bright spot of the “Ice Age” films is the acorn-obsessed Scrat, who pops in every few minutes for some “Looney Tunes”-worthy antics. Viewers may feel cheated this time, since Scrat’s best bits are recycled from two previous short films.
Speaking of shorts, there’s a witty and charming “Simpsons” short attached to “Ice Age: Continental Drift.” “The Longest Daycare” is a dialogue-free sketch in which baby Maggie tries to survive a day at an oppressive day-care center. Not since the Beastie Boys opened for Madonna on her first tour in 1985 has an opening act so completely eclipsed the headliner.
‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’
The mammoth, sloth and saber-toothed tiger are back in a franchise that’s ready for extinction.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • PG for mild rude humor and action/peril.
Running time • 94 minutes (including a three-minute “Simpsons” short: “The Longest Daycare”).