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Ice Age: Continental Drift (Blu-ray Review)

The arrival of a new Ice Age film is not something that initially thrilled me.  I enjoyed the first film in the series, but was let down by the sequel, which led to me not even bothering with the third entry in the franchise.  Still, given the opportunity to see this latest entry, ‘Continental Drift’, I figured, “Why not?” and decided to go for it.  Fortunately, I found this latest Ice Age film to be enjoyable.  While it may be missing a major element that made me enjoy the first film so much, I was still pleased with the fair amount humor and the vocal performances, animation quality (particularly the action sequences), and of course Scrat.  The Blu-ray turns out to be a nice treat as well, given the great video/audio quality and the amount of interactive extras for youngsters and behind the scenes info for those who are interested.

Film: 

With Scrat in mind, that is where I can begin this plot summation.  As usual, the film spends time giving Scrat (the series’ squirrel mascot) a subplot that sort of ties into the main story.  This time, Scrat seems to be responsible for triggering massive shifts in the continent.  This leads to our heroes, Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), being separated from the rest of their group, which includes Manny’s family (his wife Ellie, voiced by Queen Latifah, and their daughter Peaches, voiced by Keke Palmer).  While Ellie, Peaches, and the rest of the main group head for a new safe haven, as the land shifts behind them, Manny, Diego, and Sid (as well as Sid’s granny, voiced by Wanda Sykes) are stuck on a floating glacier that is traveling through unknown waters.  Fortunately or not, they manage to meet a ragtag group of pirates, led by Captain Gutt (voiced by Peter Dinklage), which may cause problems with Manny’s goal for reuniting with his family.

The first film in this series is one that I enjoyed, as it presented a story that felt somewhat different than other animated fare, given that it focused on a few of characters that came together, despite all having their own personal issues regarding isolation, and used an interesting setting to make it fun, different, and intriguing.  Given that film’s success, a franchise was inevitable, but unfortunately, the more interesting subtext was lost in the first sequel, in favor of being more a generic, family-friendly adventure.  That’s fine if the jokes work for the audience it was intended for, but it is a shame that the spirit of the first film, which made it enjoyable for adults and children, did not transfer over.  Continental Drift does not return to the spirit of the first film and a good chunk of the humor does feel more like pandering to the younger audience, rather than act cleverer about what it is presenting, but I still had fun with it.

I believe it is easiest to credit that to the voice cast.  While the film is overstuffed with celebrity voices, it feels like everyone involved is having a genuinely good time.  It should be noted that in addition to the voices I have mentioned, the rest of the cast includes Jennifer Lopez, Drake, Nicky Minaj, Seann William Scott, Nick Frost, Josh Gad, Josh Peck, Aziz Ansari, and Alan Tudyk.  Still, regardless of this large supporting cast, who get their varied levels of moments to shine (and Drake and Minaj get paid and inevitable songs on the soundtrack), it always comes down to the core trio to keep the film working.  Manny still remains my favorite thing that Romano has been involved in.  Leary is fine at portraying the gruff saber.  And Leguizamo continues to find the right balance of endearing and irritating with his lisp-y sloth role.  The added bonus is Peter Dinklage as the villain, who is entertaining in his own right, providing humor and menace.

A lot of credit should also be given to the animation quality of this film, as it is a very good looking feature.  Ice Age may not be reaching the heights of what Pixar has been accomplishing, but the film still looks quite good, thanks to its ability to communicate a grand sense of scale, providing a number of colorful characters and distinct environments (despite being set during the Ice Age), and delivering one of the best animated 3D experiences I have seen (obligatory 3D rating: this film knows what it’s doing).  It should be noted that this is the first in the series to be shot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which I found to be really neat, because I really enjoyed the expanded scope and watching these huge blocks of ice move through giant waves of water, among the other large scale set piece sequences.  The “action sequences” throughout this film, which really zips along quite efficiently, are all quite creative and further make Ice Age: Continental Drift a worthwhile feature.  The strong scoring by John Powell certainly helps as well.

I have heard several other people refer to the Ice Age franchise as The Land Before Time of this generation, which is somewhat appropriate (by the way, figure out my title reference).  I still miss the tone of what the first film in the series had to offer, but for being the fourth film in a franchise, this could have been much worse, but instead, it still seems like a lot of care is going into the making of these films, even if they have chosen to become much more familiar in their plotting and style of humor.  I like the core actors involved and I enjoyed how the animation was handled on a technical level.  It may not be a standout in the realm of animated features, but it gets enough right and looks good doing it.  Plus, Scrat is funny.

Video: 

In a word:  Stunning.  While the film is merely okay and passable for families to enjoy, the video quality on this Blu-ray is fantastic.  My favorite aspect about the film was the quality of the animation and this Blu-ray disc really does a lot to really drive that point home, as the film looks amazing in this format.  Fitted with a 1080p AVC/Encoded transfer, this film has so much great detail to show off, colors to have pop, and textures to portray, that it is a shame there is not a better film here to really match how great the video transfer is.  Things like Manny’s fur are just as impressive as the large scale glacial environments seen in this film and that is a definite compliment to how good this area of the Blu-ray is.

Audio: 

Similarly, it does not get a whole lot better than an audio track that provides a truly great sounding experience, due to the DTS-HD 7.1 surround track.  Assortments of different kinds of sounds are all heard in this film and they register very clearly.  The score, the voices, the sound effects when it comes to the various action/adventure sequences we see throughout, and even the background audio to further immerse the viewer in this pre-historic world.  This is a mostly flawless track that once again emphasizes the production value of this film, supporting the fact that at least the effort was put in to make this an impressive feature to have hit screens from a technical standpoint.

Extras: 

The extras on this disc are pretty solid.  It is a mix of kid-friendly extras and ones of more substantial quality for those who really want to learn more about the making of the film.

Features Include:

Party with a Pirate!:  Interactive Viewing Mode – A way to add a little more fun for the kids that will watch this film and it is actually able to sync up with those who have the Ice Age app available on their smartphone or tablet device.

Whale of a Tale: Beasties, Myths, and Drifts – A making of piece that goes over the story and character origins in the film.

Gutt’s Sing-Along and Music Videos – A collection of extras that all have to do with the songs and music heard in the film.  Again, this is more child-focused.

Deleted Scenes – In storyboard animatic form.

Ice Age – The Story So Far – A recap of the events that have lead up to this film, which could be handy for those who haven’t seen all of the previous films.

Through a Pirate’s Spyglass – Another making of featurette, that is fairly lengthy and goes over the voice acting in the film.

Granny and the Stinks of the Sloths – A look at certain sloth characters in the film.

Scrat Got Your Tongue? – A look at how Scrat has evolved as a character in the films.

The Scratist – A spoof on The Artist, exactly what kids will love…

Theatrical Trailer

Sneak Peaks

BD-Live Exclusive featurettes

DVD Copy of the film

Digital + Ultraviolet Copy of the film

Summary: 

Given what this film is – yet another sequel in a franchise I don’t much care for, I was surprised to enjoy this film and what it had to offer.  There is some fun, even if the entry is far from how the series started and the animation is very impressive this time around.  It helps that the video/audio on this Blu-ray is absolutely fantastic and worth taking a look at for that reason.  The solid collection of extras is a nice touch as well, as this is a pretty well-rounded disc for a whole family to enjoy.

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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