‘Continental Drift,’ latest in ‘Ice Age’ franchise, features more of the same

The best thing about "Ice Age: Continental Drift"? The short film from "The Simpsons" that plays before it.

There’s more creativity in the brief, wordless Maggie Simpson adventure "The Longest Daycare" than in the entirety of the feature that follows. So different are they in tone, quality and ambition, it’s like that summer, 45 years ago, when Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees.

On the plus side, if you’ve been playing gross-out bingo since the original "Ice Age" arrived a decade ago, you can now cross "boogers" off your card, as they join the pee, poop and flatulence gags – no pun intended – from previous installments.

"Continental Drift" finds the original herd – mammoth Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and lisping sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) – set adrift on an ice floe as the world begins breaking apart.

The culprit, as is often the case, is Scrat, the fanged squirrel whose reckless pursuit of his beloved acorn wreaks havoc on the planet, endangering every living creature.

Sure, Scrat’s a crowd-pleaser. But enough already. Just let him eat the freakin’ nut and get it over with. Much like Sid, who also finds more ways to get into trouble than a coed on spring break, their antics have moved beyond cute and are rapidly approaching pathological. It’s enough to make you wonder why Manny doesn’t just trample them both and be done with them.

With the trio out to sea, it’s up to Manny’s wife, Ellie (Queen Latifah) – common-law relationships apparently being the norm in that epoch – and daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer), to lead all the secondary and background critters to safety before a runaway land mass crushes them all.

And while searching for a way home, Manny, Diego and Sid must battle a marauding menagerie of pirates led by the giant ape Captain Gutt ("Game of Thrones’ " Peter Dinklage).

The "Ice Age" movies, you may recall, have never let logic get in the way of storytelling.

"We fought dinosaurs in the Ice Age," Sid tells his Granny (Wanda Sykes), filling her in on the previous movie’s journey. "It didn’t make sense, but it sure was fun."

Given the way the franchise feels more like assembly line products than movies, it can’t be long before the herd encounters vampires, superheroes or aliens. In an earlier era, someone would be furiously scrambling to find a way to introduce them to the Harlem Globetrotters.

"Continental Drift" adds mammoths voiced by hip-hop heavyweights Drake and Nicki Minaj, but what sounds like a good time never amounts to much. The more successful musical addition is Jennifer Lopez as the saber-toothed Shira, Gutt’s second-in-command and love interest for Diego.

Like its predecessors, this fourth installment features plenty of peril and more chase scenes than movies twice its length. But it mostly avoids some of the earlier films’ adult themes, such as death, global warming (sorry, "climate change") and a bit about repopulating the mammoth species that surely had plenty of youngsters asking, "Mommy, what’s a pervert?"

Sure, "Continental Drift" feels about as fresh as Sid and Granny must smell. But the kids at the screening seemed to enjoy themselves – even if they were able to predict some of the dialogue.

To the parents who’ve been bringing their very young ones to the raunchy "Ted" and the gory "Savages" – seriously, if you’re going to those, leave the kids with friends or family, Safe Haven them at a fire station if you must – this is the movie to let them see.

Assuming you’ve already exhausted "Brave" and the latest "Madagascar."

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.

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