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There were three things I enjoyed about Ice Age: Continental Drift. One, Scrat's relentless pursuit of acorny pleasure, especially when he comes to his journey's end. (Wile E. Coyote would admire his purity...unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.) Two, Sid the Sloth's fine foray into physical comedy after he eats a berry that leaves him a paralyzed bag of jelly. Three, the army of chipmunkesque hyraxes, adorable despite the tired use of blue facepaint to indicate battle-ready ferocity. Okay, make it four: some of the CG vistas were impressive, if not exactly breathtaking. Everything else was pretty much terrible, a master class in crass, simpleminded commercialism. Hey kids: you know these characters, you love these characters, you'll pay to see these characters again.

No character dynamic is left undeclared. ("I'm trying to protect you! That's what fathers do!") No plot development goes unexplicated. ("Everything we know is gone!") And it's a rare joke that lands with anything other than a dull thud. ("All this sweetness is going to rot my teeth.") It's almost - almost - bad enough to obscure the film's cheerful and arbitrary violation of its own physical laws for the sake of - well, for the sake of action movie cliches, mostly.

For instance: let's say your heroes are stranded on an ice floe an a piece breaks off. Everyone just huddles a little closer together on the part that remains. Makes sense! But when an ice floe the size and shape of a pirate ship breaks in two, both chunks sink like stones, because hey, that's what happened in Pirates of the Caribbean, right? Right.

Speaking of pirates, why are there pirates? Nobody's invented boats yet, let alone transoceanic commerce. Never mind, kids love pirates. And the badger looks like a Jolly Roger! Maybe next time, we'll send Manny and the gang into outer space. That way, Scrat can chase acorns in zero gravity!

Reader rating: zero stars.

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