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<Movie Details
Review
21 March 2012 by Elliott Noble

Bolstering its reputation as the cartoon franchise with the greatest cross-generational appeal, the Ice pack here gets even cooler with likes of Jennifer Lopez, Nicky Minaj and Drake joining the regular cast.

Admittedly, TMZ's most wanted have to be happy with backing vocals as the stage still largely belongs to Ray Romano's grouchy mammoth Manny, John Leguizamo's dimwit sloth Sid and Denis Leary's sabre-toothed softie Diego.

But, if measured in fun-per-second, there's still no doubt who's top of the Ice Age food chain. Yes, it's another masterclass in disaster from Scrat, the acorn-addicted rodent whose actions - and their consequences - always speak louder than words.

It's his pursuit of that elusive seed that gets this fourth prehistoric party started, an inspired chain of events that not only shapes the continents but half the wonders of the world.

It also causes the geological rift that leaves Sid, Manny and Diego separated from their beloved herd. Stuck on an iceberg in perilous seas, the trio also find themselves lumbered with an unwitting stowaway: Sid's crazy old grandma (Wanda Sykes).

As if their predicament wasn't hairy enough, they then fall foul of fearsome orang-u-pirate Captain Gutt (voiced with relish by Game Of Thrones legend Peter Dinklage) and his mangy, multi-species crew.

But nobody is going to come between Manny and his mate Ellie (Latifah) and daughter (Keke Palmer), let alone this buccaneering baboon. However, it appears that Diego could have met his match in Gutt's second-in-command, the sabre-toothed hellcat Shira (Lopez).

It's going to be a long voyage home.

Thankfully, it all sweeps along like a rat in a riptide. Even the mandatory lessons in friendship and family values don't hold it back.

Much credit goes to the eclectic cast, with Drake and Minaj (as the teenage woollies who lead Manny's daughter's astray) slotting in alongside more experienced but less frequently trending names as Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Seann William Scott and Patrick Stewart.

But nicely executed though the romances, rescues and close shaves are, you occasionally get the sense that ideas are running thin.

Depending on how old you are, the tribe of cute, lemming-like hyraxes will come across as either the less flamboyant ancestors of Madagascar's lemurs or the second coming of the Ewoks.

It's also remarkable how many action sequences rely on sliding. Not that we're saying everything's going downhill... but let's hope the forgettable sea shanty in the middle and the turgid ditty at the end were just an excuse for the music stars to do their thang and not a sign that this formerly and mercifully song-free institution is trying to find its Happy Feet.

Either way, with Scrat and other nut-jobs forever on hand to brush such concerns aside, the underlying wit of the series is far from extinct.

And in texture, scale and scope, the animation is clearly evolving with each instalment.

Which makes it a natural selection, whatever era you're from.