Preceded by a Simpsons short shot in 3-D—perhaps the only thing more superfluous than a fourth Ice Age movie—Ice Age: Continental Drift finds a retinue of vaguely contemporaneous animals coping with life in the post-Pangaea age. The core Ice Age cast—wooly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), sabertooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo)—are set adrift, sailing the high seas on a chunk of ice until they collide with a bellicose primate (Peter Dinklage). Meanwhile, on land, Manny’s daughter (Keke Palmer) trudges toward a land bridge as the continental shelf bears down on her family and friends with alarming, geologically improbable speed.
The matter of whether the world needs a fourth Ice Age movie pales beside the question of why there were three before it, but Continental Drift feels less like an extension of a theatrical franchise than an episode of a middling TV cartoon, lolling around on territory that’s already been settled. Jokes are recycled so frequently, it’s as if comedy writing was eating a hole in the ozone layer: If the audience had a nickel for every time a character on one side of the frame says something could never happen as it simultaneously happens on the other side of the frame, they’d have enough to pay the surcharge for the movie’s badly implemented 3-D.
On paper, Continental Drift boasts a jaw-dropping voice cast, including but not limited to Jennifer Lopez, Patrick Stewart, Wanda Sykes, Aziz Ansari, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Alan Tudyk. But in practice, the overstuffed ensemble leaves the cast no room to distinguish themselves, and directors Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier don’t seem interested in coaxing performances that might render their money stars less identifiable. With the help of some low-end boosting, Dinklage musters a decent amount of kid-appropriate menace—although he never does explain his gift for finding chunks of ice shaped like pirate ships—but Romano and Leary mainly sound bored, droning through their lines as if they’re simultaneously texting the contractors building the additions on their houses funded by their fat sequel paychecks. But the only person who earned their keep on Ice Age: Continental Drift is the MPAA flunky who shoehorned in the line, “Silly rabbit—piracy doesn’t pay!”