July 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM ET
REVIEW: Pixar and its magical movies have spoiled moviegoing parents. Their films are so good, and work for so many age groups, that it's easy to forget that not every film for kids has to also entertain Grandma or Dad. "Ice Age: Continental Drift" is the fourth fim in the animated series, and while it never glimpses Pixar level, it'll do for young kids. And we mean young -- my four-year-old daughter and her friend were the perfect audience.
If you've seen any of the previous "Ice Age" films, you know the drill. Ray Romano voices the somewhat whiny woolly mammoth patriarch, Manny. John Leguizamo plays a dimwitted Sid the sloth, and Denis Leary's most-un-cartoonish voice comes out of Diego, the saber-toothed tiger.
There's always a parallel plot involving the frantic saber-toothed squirrel, Scrat, and his ill-advised pursuit of an acorn. Here, he breaks up the supercontinent and splits Manny and Sid's families in the process. For the rest of the movie, Manny, Sid and Diego struggle to get back to Manny's wife, Ellie, and daughter, Peaches. There's a brief storyline about Peaches wanting to be popular and ditching her lifelong pal to hang out with the cool teen mammoths, but it's not very interesting. Let's just say Peaches is no Molly Ringwald and her little molehog friend is no Duckie Dale.
The best part of "Ice Age: Continental Drift" for grown-ups is trying to identify the various voices. Look for Jennifer Lopez as a sexy potential mate for Diego, and Peter Dinklage sounds nothing like Tyrion Lannister in his role as a creepy pirate ape who tries to conquer our heroes for no real apparent reason. But mostly, the film is frantic and slapsticky, the characters lacking heart and individuality. If you're a parent who's seen a lot of recent kid movies, you may find yourself mixing up these ice-dwelling animals with the penguins and seals of the "Happy Feet" series, which at least has dancing and music to liven things up.
Another problem with "Ice Age: Continental Drift" is that it's in 3-D. Thus tickets are more expensive and many kids hate to wear the special glasses, putting two strikes against it.
There's also a brief "Simpsons" short shown before the film. "The Longest Daycare" features voiceless Maggie, the least interesting Simpson.
Don't expect "Ice Age: Continental Drift" to make a whole lot of sense. "We fought dinosaurs in the Ice Age, it didn't make sense, but it sure was fun," says one character. Well, not a lot of fun. A little fun. If you're four.