Over the past two decades, change has come to the world of voice acting. Once the domain of performers recognised for their vocal prowess, the success of Aladdin, The Lion King and Toy Story saw celebrities take over. Whilst in 1992, Beauty and the Beast became a success with few household names among the verbal roster, today’s animated efforts come complete with an all-star line-up. Indeed, recognising the famous figures behind the cartoon characters has become just as important as the style or story, with many features and franchises predicated on their popular cast.
A multitude of movies – Shrek, Cars, Kung Fu Panda and Happy Feet among them – have sought success in such a manner, increasing their array of stars with each instalment. In the fourth film in the series, Ice Age: Continental Drift proves the epitome of the popular trend, with the entire offering emphasising its familiar voices. Regulars Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond), John Leguizamo (One for the Money) and Denis Leary (Rescue Me) return as Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth and Diego the smilodon respectively, joined by everyone from Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage to Parks and Recreation’s Aziz Ansari. Alas, as seen previously, the prominence of the talent comes at the expense of the feature’s narrative.
The slightest of tales underscores the energetic adventure, as the principal trio try to overcome another bout of adversity. Instead of humans (Ice Age), melting ice (Ice Age: The Meltdown) or dinosaurs (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs), this time the formation of continents causes the commotion. After fellow series stalwart Scrat the squirrel’s (Chris Wedge, director of the first feature) search for his beloved acorn sparks shifts in the earth’s land masses, the prehistoric protagonists are separated from Manny’s wife (Queen Latifah, The Dilemma) and daughter (Keke Palmer, True Jackson, VP). Their attempts to return are complicated not only by the changing landscape, but by a ruthless band of crazy critters turned pirates.
Accordingly, celebrity-voiced animated animals bicker and battle in directors Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who!) and Mike Thurmeier’s (co-helmer of the last franchise offering) unimaginative effort. Indeed, with character motivations murky, the central conflict unconvincing, amusement missing and the use of 3D unnecessary, the actors prove the only point of interest. And although most have overstayed their welcome in the ten years since the first feature – with newcomers adding nothing of note – they still fare better than writers Michael Berg (a scribe on the original effort) and Jason Fuchs’ (Rags) amalgamation of the expected Ice Age elements with aspects of the Pirates of Caribbean films. As a result, Ice Age: Continental Drift becomes nothing more than a paint-by-numbers, cast-fuelled continuation of an uninspiring animated series.
Ice Age: Continental Drift is released in Australia on June 28th.
Directors: Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier
Cast: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Frost, Aziz Ansari, Rebel Wilson and Peter Dinklage