Starring Ray Romano, Denis Leary. Written by Michael Berg, Jason Fuchs. Directed by Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier. PG. 87 min. Opens July 13.
Ice Age: Continental Drift is the fourth installment of the popular prehistoric-cartoon franchise and, as such, it strains for inspiration, importing some pirate-movie shtick to convince fans that the series is exploring new territory when in fact it’s running on fumes. Even inauspicious cameos by Drake and Nicki Minaj as two callow young woolly mammoths are effectively wasted: The filmmakers can’t find a way to get them involved in the movie’s lone musical number.
Literally separated from his brood by shifting tectonic plates, grumpy pachyderm Manny (Ray Romano) tries to sail back in their direction on a block of ice with his pals in tow (Denis Leary’s moody tiger and John Leguizamo’s moronic sloth). Manny and company spend the rest of the film battling iceberg-borne buccaneers whose orangutan captain (Peter Dinklage) resembles some leftover Pirates of the Caribbean concept art (and who aren’t nearly as charming as the Claymation crew from The Pirates! Band of Misfits).
But Continental Drift is never actively bad: At this point, the writers and animators have found a comfortable groove, and they know how to play up their most crowd-pleasing elements, like the ongoing subplot about the bug-eyed squirrel desperately pursuing a lone acorn. Otherwise, the film is a bit of a slog, particularly when it’s trying to impart life lessons about resisting peer pressure and being a non-conformist, platitudes that ring especially hollow when the film’s real, between-the-lines message is about embracing the predictability of formula.