With creatures that never co-existed during the period when the stories are set, as ever any budding young palaeontologist is advised not to take the film’s geological prehistory as anything resembling fact. However, when at one point, in a playful jibe at pedantic critics, Sid the Sloth remarks how, when in their last adventure they were being chased by dinosaurs, “it didn’t make any sense, but it was a lot of fun”, it’s hard to disagree.
And that’s certainly the case here as Sid (John Leguizamo), Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano) and sabre-tooth Diego (Denis Leary) find themselves separated from the rest of the herd when, once again in pursuit of an acorn, squirrel-rat Scrat (who, as ever, provides some of the funniest moments) finds himself on a journey to the centre of the Earth that causes the planet’s huge singular landmass to dramatically break apart (the science is accurate even if the speed isn’t!) into separate continents.
Stranded on a raft of ice, the trio are carried out to sea while Manny’s wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) are left to look helplessly on. “Stay alive”, bellows Manny, who’s obviously read a prehistoric edition of The Last Of The Mohicans, “no matter how long it takes, I will find you!”
There’s even more reason to get back to his family because he and the now teenage Peaches had just had a difference of opinion between his over-protective parenting and her desire to hang out with the cool kids, most especially hot young mammoth Ethan (Drake) and his friends Steffie (Heather Morris) and Katie (Nicki Minaj).
So, while the walls move ever closer, tearing their home apart and Ellie leads the herd (which again features Seann William Scott and Josh Peck as the voices of stupid possum brothers Crash and Eddie) to the safety of the land bridge where Manny’s promised to meet them, the hapless trio have their own problems to overcome.
For a start, they discover they’re not a trio but a quartet. It turns out that Sid’s cantankerous toothless granny (Wanda Sykes, hilarious), dumped on him by his parents just as they’d abandoned him, was inside a hollow tree on their iceberg, having managed to sleep throughout the cataclysmic upheaval and a tumultuous storm. And insists on calling for and feeding her imaginary or possibly dead pet, Precious.
There’s worse to come as, out of the mists, looms a gigantic galleon-shaped iceberg crewed by prehistoric pirates, among them a rabbit, kangaroo, English elephant seal (Nick Frost) and, providing a love interest for Diego, white sabre-tooth Shira (Jenifer Lopez), all under the command of fearsome orang-utang Captain Gutt (a brilliant Peter Dinklage) who, as he sharply points out, wasn’t named for the size of his stomach but rather for what his claws can do to those of his victims!
When Manny refuses to join him and the friends manage to demolish the ship, the stage is set for Gutt’s vengeful pursuit as he vows to destroy all the mammoth loves.
What follows is a further series of exciting and funny adventures that variously see the friends joining forces with a tribe of rodents (following a burst of looning gibberish and dancing by Sid) and narrowly escaping being lured to their deaths by sirens with references (for the grown ups) that range from Braveheart to Homer’s Odyssey.
Meanwhile, back with the herd, in her effort to be one of the clique, Peaches has managed to upset and alienate her one true friend, endearingly cute molehog Louis (Josh Gad) and doesn’t know how to put things right.
With just the right mix of action, scares, comedy and poignancy to delight children and adults alike, the film again serves up a valuable reassuring message about family and friendship, about looking after those you love, adapting to changing circumstances and finding a way to solve the difficulties that you meet.
Arguably the best Ice Age yet, it’s visually inspired and always colourful, the 3D’s excellent, there’s the bonus of a musical routine as Gutt and his crew sing a sea shanty to their prisoners and, as one of the many fabulous Scrat slapstick sequences, you even get to learn what happened to the fabled lost city of Atlantis, sorry I mean Scratlantis. I’ve already seen it twice and would happily watch it again and again.
The main film is preceded by The Longest Daycare), a fun animated Simpsons short with an environmental message featuring Maggie Simpson
BBFC Guidance: Contains mild threat and comic violence
LGWTC Guidance: A hugely entertaining animated family blockbuster, you really do want to catch the drift.