NEW THIS WEEK:
-- DID WE REALLY NEED A 4TH "ICE AGE" MOVIE: NOT ESPECIALLY, BUT IT HAS ITS FUNNY MOMENTS:
"ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT" PG -- Continuing the "Ice Age" (all PGs) tradition of wreaking havoc with science, this fourth episode -- fine for kids 7 and older -- implies that the continents we have today broke apart from a single large land mass over the course of a few days. The prehistoric squirrel Scrat, still chasing after his acorn, seems to cause the breakup by accident, after trying to crack open the nut. It's an amusing gimmick, though what follows in this animated 3-D confection is harrowing enough at times to push the PG envelope. One hopes that science teachers will set the record straight for kids that continental drift goes back hundreds of millions of years. Our "Ice Age" protagonists, Manny (voice of Ray Romano) the Woolly Mammoth, his mate Ellie (Queen Latifah), their teenage daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer), the saber-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and the sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) are doing OK, pre-crackup. Peaches has a crush on a hot-shot mammoth named Ethan (hip-hop star Drake) and longs to hang with his crew (singer Nicki Minaj voices the jealous "Steffie"). Peaches' best pal Louis (Josh Gad), a little mole hog, feels left out. Sid's parents drop off his senile Granny (Wanda Sykes) for him to look after. But all these issues fade when the land breaks up. Manny, Sid and Diego are separated by a huge chasm from Ellie and Peaches. They agree to work around all the crevasses and meet up at the old stone "land bridge," but a huge storm carries the guys out to sea on an ice floe. They encounter an iceberg/pirate ship and the bloodthirsty orangutan Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and Gutt's female saber-tooth enforcer, Shira (Jennifer Lopez). Diego takes notice of her. The moral, as with all the films, is "You never leave a friend."
A funny short, "The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare" (PG), precedes "Ice Age: Continental Drift." Little Maggie Simpson is dropped off at the Ayn Rand day care center and stuck in the "nothing special" section (as opposed to "gifted"). A bully tries to destroy the butterflies and caterpillars she rescues, but she's too ingenious for him. Their little battle of wills is very funny, but the bully is scowlingly mean.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For children under 7, a lot of potentially disturbing images appear in "Ice Age: Continental Drift." The sight of mountains, valleys and icebergs breaking apart and endangering the animal characters could unsettle them, as could the huge storm and capsizing waves, especially in 3-D. Sea sirens morph into people the protagonists love, then, as they approach, turn into monsters. The violence and threats by Captain Gutt and his gang seem intense for a PG, as are the fights and chases. The pirates use sharp weapons made from shells. The script includes mild curses, such as "holy crab!" and the coarser "screw-up." Mild sexual innuendo is implied between the teen mammoths and Diego and Shira. Sid eats a bad berry and is briefly paralyzed.
-- 0 -- -- 0 -- -- 0 --
-- FINE FOR KIDS 7 AND OLDER:
"MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE'S MOST WANTED" PG -- Rarely does a second sequel improve on the brand, but that's the case with this ingenious new chapter in the animated series that includes "Madagascar" (PG, 2005) and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (PG, 2008). Kids 7 and older can't help but laugh and delight in the latest capers of the now familiar lion Alex (voice of Ben Stiller), the zebra Marty (Chris Rock), the giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) and the hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) -- all in crayon colors and classy 3-D. The four friends, who escaped from New York's Central Park Zoo, remain stranded in Africa. When their penguin cohorts cross the Mediterranean to Monte Carlo, they follow them there, but the penguins' plane crashes when they try to take off for New York. Stuck in France, the mammals attract a bloodhound-like animal control officer (Frances McDormand) who collects animal heads. They escape onto a circus train and meet the grim tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), the wary jaguar Gia (Jessica Chastain) and the trusting sea lion Stefano (Martin Short). They help their new friends jazz up the faded circus in hilarious Cirque du Soleil-style. Choosing freedom and adventure over safety and confinement seems to be the life lesson offered.
THE BOTTOM LINE: When characters are fired out of a circus cannon, or engaged in a frenetic car chase, the stakes may seem a little more death-defying to kids under 7, especially in 3-D. The script uses semi-crude toilet humor, including a gross-but-funny moment when a circus elephant accidentally sits on a kid and gets him partially stuck in its behind -- no injuries. The word "Bolshevik" is used in place of a barnyard epithet that starts with "bull ... " In a flashback, the tiger does a stunt that sets his fur ablaze and destroys his confidence.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.