Monday, July 30, 2012

Acorny adventure forges ahead

(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 29 July, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/more-acorny-adventures)







Voice cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Peter Dinklage, Wanda Sykes and others
Directors: Steve Martino, Michael Thurmeier
Rating: 3.5 stars
Of course it begins with an acorn. In this version of animated history where a squirrel chasing its one true love is largely responsible for the shifting of the tectonic plates, the third dimension provides ample excuse for characters to fly towards and zoom away from us, accompanied by whoops and yells. However, what could have been a staid series of clichés is rescued by some brilliant timing, inventive characterisation, and occasionally clever dialogue.
Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano) and Diego the Smilodon (Denis Leary) are back, joined by two wonderfully quirky characters – Grandma Sloth (Wanda Sykes) and Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage). Naturally, the main characters are having family trouble. Peaches (Keke Palmer), daughter of Manny and Ellie (Queen Latifah) has begun to rebel, and Daddy’s terrified of losing his little girl. Sid’s family abandons him after offloading his stinky granny onto him. And a lovelorn beaver has a crush of, erm, mammoth proportions.
We know how the story usually goes – geological disaster, followed by adventure, followed by epiphany, followed by happy ending. En route, Scrat the Squirrel (Chris Wedge), and the possum twins Eddie (Josh Peck) and Crash (Seann William Scott) make you laugh every time they appear. An Indian character with a ridiculous accent may be thrown in for additional laughs.
To their credit, the filmmakers fashion a romance that tickles rather than grates, with the introduction of Shira (Jennifer Lopez), First Mate of a pirate iceberg captained by the tyrant Gutt. The franchise needed a strong antagonist to perk up, and Peter Dinklage is quite perfect as the menacing commander of the high seas. Several songs with ludicrous lyrics and infantile rhyme, a delightful sequence with chipmunks and the surprise appearance of a character at the end make this children’s film rather enjoyable for adults.
But I do find it disappointing that each film in this series seems to have a progressively younger target audience. A case in point is that when Ellie asks if there are any questions as she leads an expedition for survival, someone comes up with: “When you take in water through your nose, does it taste like boogers?”
The film does take subtle digs at itself, and these are nicely accompanied by versions of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, varied in pace and instrumentation. With both 3D and computer graphics thoroughly exploited in the film, the chalk drawings as the credits play are a treat.
The Verdict: Ice Age 4 doesn’t offer much new fare, but that shouldn’t stop you from having a fun afternoon out at the cinema.

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