Movie Review: Ice Age 4
I find it a slightly ominous sign when movies sport a “4” at the end of their title. It usually comes about when a company makes a half-successful movie: then, because they know that sequels will sell, they keep churning them out. Finally people realise that the entire series is running on the momentum of the first film. Occasionally — as in the case of Toy Story — the company manages to make each instalment very special. Usually they don’t.
As a result, I never expected to see Ice Age 4 on the big screen. Especially since I have only seen half a dozen films at the cinema in my life. It worked out that I did, however: we were staying with our grandparents for a week, and they wanted to take us to the cinema. They didn’t like the look of Brave (the latest Pixar film) — and in particular they thought it wouldn’t be appropriate for my youngest sisters. The only G-rated film that was showing was the Aristocats, but it wasn’t showing at a convenient time of day (my oldest younger sister and I breathed a guilty sigh of relief). So Ice Age 4 was really the only option. Since I don’t often see movies in the cinema, I thought I’d review it.
The movie starts with Scrat — the foolish sabre-toothed squirrel who spends eternity chasing his beloved acorn. Scrat has generated a lot of laughs over the years: my favourite was the time he died and went to heaven. He was making his way towards the paradisiacal chestnut, when suddenly, as he was about to reach it, a strong wind caught him up and he is blown back, back — out of the gates of heaven and down to earth. Sid had revived him through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Scrat wanted to kill Sid for that!
But by movie 4 — I must say I’m not thrilled to see Scrat chasing after his acorn again. So how do the producers respond? They play the trick of making the consequences BIGGER! It’s an old trick: you make a little thing the turning point for something massive. Countless movies — particularly animated ones — and probably even a few books have tried to outdo each other with more fantastic outcomes. Scale-wise, Ice Age 4 is hard to beat. Scrat’s Acorn gets lodged in the ground; as he tries to get it out, the ground splits. The crack grows at lightning speed, and soon Pangaea has crumbled into seven separate islands: all floating away from each other at break-neck speed. The stupid sabre-toothed squirrel has instigated the continental drift!
After this prologue, the story skips to our three protagonists: Manny, the mammoth; Diego, the sabre-toothed tiger; and Sid, the sloth. Diego and Sid are still baches, but Manny has a wife and daughter. Unfortunately he and his daughter do not get along very well. Among humans, teenagers were invented during the 1950s; among mammoths, apparently, they existed back in the days of Pangaea. Manny’s daughter, Peaches, likes a handsome, (or so she thinks) sporty mammoth — and wants him to like her too. But Manny won’t let her go far from home, or do anything cool. Does this sound slightly deja vu? Then, as Manny and Peaches are in the middle of a spirited altercation, the earth splits between them and the family is separated in the middle of a fight.
But, as usual, there is a goal: as the earth is torn asunder beneath their feet, Manny shouts to his family to make their way to the land bridge. So the two parties: Manny, Diego, Sid, and Sid’s insufferable grandmother on one side; Ellie (Manny’s wife), Peaches, and all the other animals on the other. The trio (well, not a trio any longer) end up on an iceberg in the ocean; the others march toward the land bridge, trying to outrun a cliff which is sliding towards them — it’s only a matter of time before they are pushed into the ocean.
Both parties press on enduring separation, pirates — and the weather. The usual sorts of things happen: grouches gradually become loveable — while remaining grouchy; enemies fall in love; lessons are learnt…. My favourite lesson was “if someone tries to turn you into somebody who you’re not, they probably aren’t worth it”. I’ll forgive Blue Sky Studios some cliche elements, however, because in the end it’s a whale that saves the day. Everybody loves a whale!
So Ice Age 4 was enjoyable, but not ground-breaking. It had similar themes to other films; the same kind of character development; the same Scrat. To cover up many unoriginal elements they scaled things up (I’m not sure if this is a plus or a minus). I would probably rate it 3/5: it was an afternoon’s good entertainment, but I’ve seen better.