Animation’s ‘sleights of cinema’By Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The fourth “Ice Age” movie, “Continental Drift,” has a tough row to hoe: After three installments, what else can the new movie be about that will keep viewers interested – and satisfied?
To answer that key question, the production’s creative team of filmic fabulators have come up with quite a provocative “road” movie (even without the benefit of motor vehicles)!
It tweaks the breakup of the continents million of years ago –and makes it come to bear on its resident family of mammoths and their ditzy, goony friends. That takes nothing less than a series of “sleights of cinema,” but the amazed viewer “allows” the production to do what it needs to do to keep him entertained.
In the animated feature’s “extreme” retelling of our planet’s geological history, the breakup of the old world of Pangea into today’s continents has separated mammoth Manny from his wife and daughter, so he and his friends, Diego and Sid, have to literally walk, sail or swim across their newly shattered world to get reunited with them.
In the process, they have to contend, not just with the surly, hurly-burly forces of nature gone berserk, but also with villains like a monkey Pirate King and vicious sea creatures who use their ability to devilishly enchant and entrap to lure them away from their goal of reunification with their loved ones.
Thus, even as the movie’s creative team comes up with one wild plot twist and loopy character after another, the film is kept on course by its stabilizing “family factor.”
For would-be animators, this movie’s “sleights of cinema” can serve as a quickie course and compendium of what filmmakers have to do to keep an old franchise eventful and involving. The new characters it adds to its antic cast are paced by Sid the Sloth’s granny, who’s as sassy as he is slow and stupid.
On the debit side, this sequel’s major new villain, Captain Gutt, mugs up a storm but to minimal comedic effect, so he ends up slowing down and messing up the production, instead of keeping it bright and loads of fun.
This serves as an object lesson for other serial filmmakers: Adding new characters to keep a franchise interesting is more than just a matter of thinking up “crazy” and “over-the-top” cartoon figures who act up a loud and idiosyncratic storm on cue.
Each new character has to offer something integral and involving that goes beyond mere bombast and caricature – or else the production will find itself in deep…slurry.
Happily, “Continental Drift” is able to surmount the mess that Captain Gutt makes, by coming up with more plot twists that work, so the movie still leaves viewers with smiles on their faces as they leave the theater.
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