Scrat’s back for more frosty adventures, but unfortunately so are the rest of those other boring characters. As anyone who has ever plowed through an entry in this long-running series knows, it really only comes to life during Scrat’s brief nut-chasing interludes, adding comedic gold to an otherwise leaden enterprise.
This time around, the creators attempt to inject some excitement by adding a ferocious monkey pirate captain and his menacing crew to the mix. Yes, you read that right, Ice Age has turned into Pirates of the Caribbean. This is clearly the most unbelievable development of the entire series and sails dangerously close to infringing on Disney’s Pirates franchise, although the creators valiantly struggle to convince us in the DVD bonus features that the tale is actually an homage to Greek mythology, specifically Homer’s Odyssey. Anybody else here come to an Ice Age film to see pirates and mythology? I certainly didn’t, and I particularly abhorred the garish and nasty pirate ape thrust in our faces at every turn.
For their part, the principal star characters shuffle through their motions once again, with Manny the mammoth and his wife now dealing with teenage daughter Peaches (born in the previous installment), Diego the sabertooth finding a new love interest, and Sid the sloth getting stuck babysitting his feisty and seemingly senile grandma (voiced by Wanda Sykes). How these flat and uninvolving characters are still global box-office champs is entirely beyond me, and they do absolutely nothing to improve their reputations here.
And then there’s dear old Scrat. His appearances always feel like brief bursts of hilarious Coyote and Roadrunner shorts interspersed into the drab main features, with his hapless but persistent character eternally chasing his unobtainable nut prize. Here he stumbles across a treasure map, further enforcing the film’s pirate angle, and sets out on an epic quest that leads him to a fabled city that can best be described as Nutlantis. Take one guess how that plays out for him.
The movie has the best production design of the series, which isn’t saying much when one compares it to the previous subpar entries summarized in a helpful “previously on” bonus feature that catches us up to speed on the gang’s prior adventures. The first film particularly now looks like amateur hour in comparison, falling somewhere below video game cut scene quality, but continuing animation studio Blue Sky’s latest entry is still nowhere near the level of Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks CG artisty. There’s also their troubling reliance on staging action scenes specifically for leaping out of 3D screens, which just looks desperate in 2D rather than conveying any intended kineticism.
Bonus features are entirely overboard for this lightweight project, including extensive uninformative fluff interviews with the principal vocal cast members, making of looks at the plot development and character design, and a music video.