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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

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"Ice Age: Continental Drift," the kids series' fourth installment, opens in theaters today.
"Ice Age: Continental Drift," the kids series' fourth installment, opens in theaters today.

Fourth "Ice Age" enjoyable but drifts out of memory

As a film fan, there may not be a greater rush than finding a movie that sticks with you. There's something stimulating and thrilling about seeing a film, and several weeks or even months later, you still can't stop thinking about it and desiring to share and discuss it with others. It's those movies that make sitting through cinematic slop, like "The Hangover Part II" or "The Last Airbender," totally worth it.

"Ice Age: Continental Drift," the fourth installment in the frostbitten animated series, is not one of those movies. Sure, it's entertaining enough while you're in the theater, but it's hard to imagine anyone remembering "Continental Drift" long after they've thrown out their popcorn tub and left the building.

The film follows the friendly trio of Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary, his second film in two weeks) and Sid (John Leguizamo) as they attempt to cope with the shifting tectonic plates (I just made my fifth grade science teacher very proud) slowly forming the Earth into the familiar seven continents we have today.

Unfortunately, during one very sudden shift, the three amigos get separated from the rest of the prehistoric creatures, including Manny's family (Queen Latifah and Keke Palmer). Lost at sea, the friends must make their way back, a task made no easier by the band of pirates (led by Peter Dinklage) continually hunting them down.

I'd be lying if I said that "Ice Age: Continental Drift" wasn't entertaining for its 94-minute running time. As usual, the movie's best parts come during Scrat's little Looney Tunes-esque attempts to bury his prized acorn. The bits are almost entirely silent other than the prehistoric squirrel's squeaks and grunts (provided by Chris Wedge, the first film's director), but the physical comedy provides some of "Ice Age"'s bigger laughs.

Other than Scrat, most of the movie's humor comes from Leguizamo's Sid (the other two leads serve mainly as the straight man). The character's constant bumbling, mainly involving eating and drinking things he shouldn't (salt water, paralyzing berries, etc.), provides some decent chuckles.

However, his best moment is a strangely meta line early in the film, telling his granny (Wanda Sykes) about their previous adventures with the dinosaurs and noting that "it didn't make sense at all." Glad to hear that Sid and the film's creators do know where the Ice Age falls in relativity to the Jurassic (hint: not close).

As expected of a modern kids movie, the animation looks great, and there's a nice sequence near the middle involving some sirens. However, midway through the film, audiences might find themselves with a surprising and unexpected feeling: boredom. Even some of the voice actors sound less than enthusiastic; Dinklage, so witty and powerful on "Game of Thrones," brings little menace or humor to his pirate caption role. He's just as colorless as the slabs of ice they use for their ships.

Despite "Ice Age: Continental Drift"'s continuous assortment of fast-paced action scenes and general lunacy, the story and characters feel startlingly generic. Manny's story arc about learning to let his daughter go and be a kid is pulled straight from "Finding Nemo" but without the emotion, while Manny's daughter aspires to join the popular kids, a plotline seen in TV shows and movies too numerous to name here.

Will she eventually disavow a true friend in order to be accepted? Will she learn that being yourself is better than being a cool kid? And will Diego's love interest from the pirate clan (Jennifer Lopez) discover that her mean buccaneer friends don't care about her as much as she thought? Is this movie made for easily entertained kids?

Well, yes it is. And kids will be very entertained. Even parents will get a few chuckles out of "Ice Age: Continental Drift." Just don't expect to hear or think about the movie ever again after the ride home.

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