Something In The Air
A semi-autobiographical drama from director Olivier Assayas set in 1970s Paris
This fourth instalment in Fox's animated Ice Age franchise sees Sid & co. going with the floe on a prehistoric high-seas adventure with pirates (but alas no scientists)
Reunited with his eccentric, toothless Granny, Sid the Sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo) gives a recap of his most recent adventure: "We fought dinosaurs in the Ice Age – it didn't make sense, but it sure was exciting."
These words all at once summarise, critique and defend the previous franchise entry Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) – and anyone expecting Ice Age 4: Continental Drift to revert to (relative) realism will be disappointed. After Scrat the prehistoric squirrel inadvertently causes a massive shift in the world's tectonic plates, Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the sabre-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), Sid and Granny (Wanda Sykes) end up adrift on an iceberg and clashing with a motley pirate crew led by bullying ape Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage).
Meanwhile Manny's wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), their teenaged daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) and the rest of the extended herd become refugees once again in a dangerously shifting landscape. There is a Jonah-like ride in the belly of a whale (even more bizarre in context than it sounds, but to say why would be a spoiler); an 'evolving' interspecies romance between partners too disproportionately sized and shaped to bear scrutiny, let alone progeny; a utopian republic of squirrels formed on a Platonic/Aristotelian model; and a harbour resembling New York's right down to a bestialised Statue of Liberty.
In other words, it still doesn't make sense. Here anything goes, in a postmodern mishmash of incongruous elements designed to keep adults and children alike excited and laughing - although for many this now overfamiliar schtick is a sign of a series nearing extinction. Cliched parody of The Last of the Mohicans ("I will find you!") and the introduction of voguish pirates smack of a certain identity crisis, not to mention desperation, while all this craziness swirls the film's core themes into a decidedly mixed message.
The franchise's once prominent environmental concerns now merely motivate one cliffhanger after another, while family (or 'herd') values come to the fore – because nothing, apparently, serves better against the apocalypse than looking out for each other and letting your baby grow up. Whenever there is risk of a lull, yet another new character is introduced to the increasingly unmanageable menagerie. By contrast the Simpsons short The Longest Daycare, which plays before each screening, is wittier, less bloated, and makes far better use of its 3D.
As long-time franchise director Carlos Saldanha here retreats into the role of executive producer, this latest instalment feels like a rudderless ship of ice floating in tropical waters. Manny and the herd will no doubt be back, but with returns not so much diminishing as melting away.
Coming to cinemas, TV, DVD/Blu-ray, video-on-demand and Film4 Channel on July 5th is Ben Wheatley's latest, the Film4-backed A Field In England. And we're excited to unveil not only the new quad poste
Film4.com editor Catherine Bray experiments with James Franco's ambitious split screen adaptation of William Faulkner's Nobel Prize winning impressionistic stream of consciousness novel, As I Lay Dyin