‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ adds a dash of piracy

If you liked the wackiness of the old Looney Tunes, “Ice Age” has surely taken their place. This current installment has references that the adult audience will get while being clean entertainment for the kids with a moral at the end that doesn’t thud and stink like mammoth dung on a hot day.This time out,  “Ice Age: Continental Drift” adds a popular pirate theme to its series.

It all begins with avarice: We start with Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel who is after an acorn. Through Scrat, the cartoonists explain how the Continental Drift began.

This is the fourth “Ice Age” installment. The original 2002 computer animated feature was about three Paleolithical mammals–Manny, a wooly mammoth (Ray Romano); Sid, a Megalonyx sloth (John Leguizamo); and Diego, a Smilodon (Denis Leary)–who return a human child to human tribe and in doing so become friends.

In “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” Manny, afraid of being the last mammoth, meets up with a female mammoth named Ellie (Queen Latifah) who was raised by opossums.  Ellie and her opossum “brothers,” Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck), join Manny, Sid and Diego as they flee on on-coming flood.

In “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” Manny and Ellie are expecting a child. Siid grows jealous and finds three “abandoned eggs” which he hatches. But the eggs belong to a Tyrannosaurus Rex which still survive in a secret valley. The actual T-Rex mother comes back and takes her babies and Sid. Manny, Ellie and Diego attempt to rescue Sid with the help of a one-eyed weasel named Buck.

In the fourth installment of the series, Ellie and Manny’s baby has grown up to be a teen mammoth named Peaches (Keke Palmer) whose best friend is a molehog named Louis (Josh Gad).  When she attempts to be cool in front of other mammoths–particularly Ethan (Drake) whom she has a crush on, Peaches rejects both her father, mother, Crash and Eddie, Louis, Sid and Diego.

Sid’s family shows up, but only to foist Granny on him and leave without a second thought.

With the sudden split and fissures of land, Ellie and Peaches are separated from Manny. Manny, Sid and Diego end up stranded on a piece of ice that drifts off into the sea and then gets caught in a rough storm. They are attacked by pirates in an iceberg ship led by the orangutang-like Gigantopithecus named Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) whose first mate is a female saber-toothed cat called Shira (Jennifer Lopez).

The rest of the movie involves Manny and his friends attempting to re-unite with Ellie and Peaches while being pursued by the ice-ship pirates, aided by hyraxes and a surprise friend.

Adults with appreciate references to real science (e.g. the continental drift), movies kids probably haven’t seen like “Braveheart.” You have to wonder if choosing a Gigantopithecus doesn’t echo back to a Disney source (e.g. “Jungle Book”) but not having that background doesn’t matter at all.

The original “Ice Age” gave us three guys on the road and the second one gave us a mammoth romance. The third one managed to find a way to add the dinosaur craze to its franchise in a pulp fiction fantasy sort of way. This latest installment brings in pirates, but makes them animals instead of guys with too much guy-liner and lots of CGI. The movie is still fun for the family while emphasizing the importance of staying true to your family and friends, even if they might not seem cool. How often does the old grandma do something that saves the day?

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