Skrat shakes up world in “Ice Age: Continental Drift”

Skrat’s obsessive pursuit of the elusive acorn has worldwide
consequences in “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” the fourth in the
animated series that also features Manny the mammoth, Diego the
saber-toothed tiger and Sid the sloth.

The indomitable rodent Skrat, who has managed to stave starvation
and defy total destruction despite all the disasters encountered,
finds himself plummeting to the center of the Earth while going after
his precious nutty quarry. There, his spinning of the Earth’s core
leads to cataclysmic shifting of the lands above, disrupting the
lives of the “Ice Age” entourage.

Manny (voice of Ray Romano), having found love with Ellie (Queen
Latifah), is now facing the challenges of parenthood with a young but
restless offspring, Peaches (Keke Palmer), whose crush on Ethan
(Aubrey Graham) has her at odds with her overprotective father.
Meanwhile, Sid (John Leguizamo) has a brief reunion with his family,
only to be ditched again after they dump on him Granny (Wands Sykes).

Soon these domestic problems are upstaged as the ground starts
shaking and splitting up. Manny, Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid are
marooned on a wayward block of ice while Ellie, Peaches and various
other animals, facing an advancing wall of rock, have to make their
way to safer ground.

“Ice Age” then settles into familiar territory as the three main characters,
unlikely friends anyway, must rely on one another to survive and get
back home — this time they have a fourth aboard: the seemingly
out-of-it Granny.

Time to throw in a little conflict. In their drifting, the foursome
run into another bigger iceberg on which a simian named Capt. Gutt
(Peter Dinklage), rules like a pirate over yet another potpourri of
animals, mostly goofy but nevertheless loyal to their captain. In
this motley crew there is one fairly competent member, Shira
(Jennifer Lopez) another tiger and natural adversary/love interest
for Diego.

Screenwriter Michael Berg, who penned the original “Ice Age” and the
third installment, “Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” is familiar with the
characters, and joined by Jason Fuchs on this script, keeps the story
on a predictable path, inserting messages about friendship, peer
pressure, senseless needs for revenge and the bonds of family. This
helps make it a good family flick, with enough humor attached for the
adults in the audience.

Skrat’s occasional appearances provide intense, wickedly funny
interludes. Indeed, while the main story plods along on a safe
trajectory, Skrat’s adventures provide the only surprises: Just what
will happen next to this poor little creature who is driven by manic
instinctive desire?

The speculation is whether this series will continue. It seems
likely. With Peaches now on board, Manny and Ellie will have all
sorts of parental issues to address. And Diego, it appears, will have
his paws full with the strong-willed Shira. Sid and Granny will
always be good for laughs.

And Skrat? Well, like Wile E. Coyote’s never-ending and mostly
calamitous stalking of the Roadrunner, there may never be
gratification — to his misfortune and to our guilty delight.

Vernor’s Ticket Tidbit:
The first lycanthrope to be portrayed on
film was played by a woman. Phyllis Gordon (1889-1964), who was in 54
movies from 1911 to 1941, played Watoma, a woman who could transform
into a werewolf, in the 1913 short film “The Werewolf.” The little
movie was based on legends of the Navajo Indians and had Watoma
shape-shifting in order to fight off settlers. She then comes back
from the dead 100 years later to resume killing. Sadly, all prints of
this groundbreaking horror film were destroyed in a fire at Universal
Studios in 1924.

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