Box Office Preview: In the Cold Winter between two Megahits, only an Ice Age can Survive

Ice Age: Continental Drift

With “The Amazing Spider-Man” eating up more than its fair share of moviegoers (for some reason) and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” coming out next Friday (oh, and new “Breaking Bad” on Sunday), we’re stuck in a bit of an awkward week. Studios didn’t want to compete with these sure to be giants, so the only movies coming out will be those with distinctly different demographics. This week, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” fits the bill, and, well, that’s all there is, there isn’t any more.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the newest Ice Age film, the fourth in the series. Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary, who have been around since the first film, will reprise their roles as Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth, and Diego the saber-toothed tiger, respectively. Do you really want to hear about the “plot”? Alright, here it is:

Scrat’s nutty pursuit of the cursed acorn, which he’s been after since the dawn of time, has world-changing consequences – a continental cataclysm that triggers the greatest adventure of all for Manny, Diego and Sid. In the wake of these upheavals, Sid reunites with his cantankerous Granny, and the herd encounters a ragtag menagerie of seafaring pirates determined to stop them from returning home.

Currently at a 51 percent on the Tomatometer, “Ice Age: Continental Drift” is exactly what it seems to be: a movie that will get the kids to stop screaming for a few hours, without really breaking any new ground for the series, and offering what little apologies and in-jokes it can for the adults along for the ride. Oh, and if the first three movies are any indication, it’ll probably drag in over $150 million while it’s at it. The first film, which was the weakest financially in the series so far, still hauled in over $176 million at the domestic box office. The more recent releases each grossed over $195 million.

Perhaps the only interesting thing about the film is the sheer number of recognizable names on that cast list. Along with the big three there’s Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Jennifer Lopez, Peter Dinklage (who I’m very disappointed in, then again, get your golden dragons Tyrion, you’ve earned it), Wanda Sykes, Aziz Ansari, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and even Sir Patrick Stewart.

Save your money for Batman, people.

  

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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Easily the best of the “Ice Age” movies to date, though there is still room for improvement. The main characters of Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) are still bland as waffles, as are “Ice Age 2: The Meltdown” returning characters Ellie (Queen Latifah), Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). But the “Ice Age” gang gains one huge upgrade in the form of Buck (Simon Pegg) a daredevil weasel who also happens to be completely nuts, which of course wins Buck the instant affections of Crash and Eddie. They even worked dinosaurs into the mix without jumping the shark – they live in a secret world beneath the ground – though it did cause me to wonder how the other animals knew what they were, since they had never seen one before and presumably do not have history books. There is a hilarious tribute to ’90s action movies where Buck tries to save Manny and Diego from a meat-eating plant, and must choose between cutting the red root and the blue root. The Scrat subplot is still the best part of the movie, and is ramped up by a new love interest, the eyelash-batting Scratte. But the A-story is slowly but surely holding its own.

We cannot vouch for the 3D aspect of the movie, but considering the number of thrilling first-person chase sequences contained here, it appears they were quite generous with it. They were also quite generous with the extras, including every Scrat short film and a deluge of featurettes on drawing characters and coming up with the designs for Scratte and the dinosaurs. Why Fox decided not to screen this for us is a mystery, as the movie is quite good.

Click to buy “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”

  

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Kids Today: “Drake & Josh: Best of Seasons 1 – 2”

I admit it: I’m a Drake Bell fan. It doesn’t have anything to do with his Nickelodeon sitcom, though; it’s all because of his music career. Have you heard his stuff? The guy’s so much of a Jellyfish fan that he covers “Joining a Fan Club” in concert…and does it pretty damned well, too. That’s why I requested this set to review back in August…and, yet, when it arrived, I was unable to bring myself to put it in the DVD player. When it came right down to it, I found myself asking a question that, to be fair, I probably should’ve asked before making the DVD request: is appreciating a guy’s musical output really enough of a reason to endure watching a sitcom aimed at an audience that’s about 20 years younger than I am? The answer: not really. After seeing Bell’s co-star, Josh Peck, appear in the Michael Rapaport flick, “Special,” however, I decided that the time had come to get off my old arse and get it over with.

As it happened, watching “Drake & Josh: Best of Seasons 1 – 2” wasn’t nearly as excruciating an experience as I’d feared it would be, which was certainly a nice surprise, but the most surprising thing about the experience was the fact that Peck’s photo on the cover of the DVD bears absolutely no resemblance to the actor as he appeared in the first few seasons of the series. He spent the third and fourth seasons of the show divesting himself of a fair amount of weight, as it turns out, but I guess the folks responsible for packaging this best-of set decided that offering an accurate presentation of Peck’s weight during Seasons 1 and 2 wouldn’t do as well to inspire the show’s predominant audience – teen-aged girls – to buy the set. (To be fair, they did manage to find room for a cast photo from the era on the back cover.)

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