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There are two types of animated film, the artistic kind and the commercial kind although there is a fair amount of crossover between the two. The Ice Age franchise is a pretty clear example of the latter, a money-making behemoth and one of the most lucrative film franchises ever. It’s managed this despite never enjoying real critical acclaim. It’s a middle-of-the-road series of kids flick worth watching for the amusing banter between the central trio and Scrat the squirrel’s acorn-chasing misadventures but never likely to match the brilliance of the best of Pixar. It’s a big ask but can the fourth outing do more than just the same again?

No, not really. Scrat’s attempts to bury his acorn have caused the continents to move apart and Manny Diego and Sid have become separated from the rest of their friends. Their journey to reunite with their loved ones puts them on a collision course with Captain Gut and his crew of iceberg-sailing pirates. The plot is completely perfunctory, bogged down by tired clichés; Manny’s overprotective relationship with his daughter, Diego’s feisty female foil voiced by J-Lo. There are no surprises and nothing really memorable in the story.

Instead it’s all about the jokes and they arrive at a steady pace and should provide just enough to keep kids amused. Sid is still the funniest, his best moment coming after eating a paralysis berry and yes, the physical comedy saved for Scrat’s sequences are still good but the witty banter that made the first film a treat seems to have run out of steam. At least the mountains of money the previous films brought in have given the animation team the resources they need to give prehistory some excellent detail.

Ice Age 4 is not exactly a bad film, it’s perfectly okay but offers nothing you haven’t already seen in the series. If you’re a fan of the knockabout formula and spirited slapstick you could probably do worse but you won’t be missing out if you choose to forego this one.

Verdict

There are a few minor highlights and the voice acting and character dynamics maintain a simple warmth but otherwise this fourth film is mediocre and forgettable on almost every count.

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