Reel Reviews

‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’

Audience:
A-I – General Patronage

 

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As he has been known to do before, the manic saber-toothed squirrel Scrat (voice of Chris Wedge) steals the show in “Ice Age: Continental Drift” (Fox).

Other comic elements in this modestly entertaining 3-D animated sequel are beginning to feel worn. But lessons in loyal friendship and family solidarity are more durable. And the only red flags for parents are raised by plot developments that might frighten the most sensitive and some fleeting potty humor.

When Scrat’s obsessive pursuit of his ever-elusive acorn accidentally causes the natural phenomenon of the title, setting the once-united continents asunder, Earth’s newfound divisions separate good-hearted mammoth Manny (voice of Ray Romano) from his levelheaded wife, Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah), and their teenage daughter, Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer).

This forced family breakup comes at a bad time: Overprotective Manny and headstrong Peaches have been quarreling over her aspirations to hang out with the local in-crowd led by mammoth heartthrob Ethan (voice of rapper Drake), whom she’s trying to woo.

Peaches’ membership in Ethan's clique also spells trouble for her long-standing friendship with mole hog Louis (voiced by Josh Gad) since her snobbish new pals regard him as insufficiently cool.

Determined to reunite his clan, Manny is aided by his two closest amigos, sloth Sid (voice of John Leguizamo) and tiger Diego (voice of Denis Leary). But his efforts are temporarily stymied when the trio is taken prisoner by a band of pirates led by bellicose orangutan Captain Gutt (voice of Peter Dinklage).

Accompanying them into captivity is Sid’s eccentric Granny (voiced by Wanda Sykes), whose other relatives have dumped her in Sid’s keeping – much as they previously abandoned Sid himself. Happily for her companions, though, Granny is not quite as dotty as she first seems.

The shortcomings of this pleasant but uninspired fourth installment of the popular franchise are only emphasized by its being shown in conjunction with “The Longest Daycare,” a brilliant short featuring characters from television’s long-running comedy, “The Simpsons.”

Looking at the upside, though, the single sight gag of Marge Simpson dropping her little daughter Maggie off at the Ayn Rand School for Tots is probably worth the whole price of admission.

The film contains mild menace and a bit of scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

(By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service)

‘People Like Us’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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Touching story has some caveats

Based on real events and aimed at intelligent, mature audiences, “People Like Us” (Disney) can, refreshingly, emphasizes the first word in its title. It takes people and their condition seriously.

This low-key blend of comedy and drama features no explosions, car chases, aliens, comic-book superheroes or four-letter-word-spouting teddy bears. Instead it showcases some fine acting and delivers a thoughtful – if not always entirely plausible – examination of its main characters’ struggle to overcome a legacy of family dysfunction.

We can see some of the results of that blighted heritage in the behavior of fast-talking, 20-something businessman Sam (Chris Pine). Basically good-hearted, but ethically challenged, Sam specializes in wholesale barter, and is under investigation by the feds for his fast-and-loose flouting of various regulations. He’s also up against significant financial reversals.

In the midst of all that, Sam’s live-in girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) passes on the news that his father, from whom Sam has long been estranged, has died. Traveling back to his hometown with Hannah in tow, emotionally conflicted Sam uses underhanded means to avoid the funeral and is greeted on his late arrival by a slap in the face from his mom, Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Something more akin to a sucker punch awaits Sam as he gradually discovers that he has a 30-year-old half-sister named Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), and that two-timing Pa, a successful but self-absorbed music producer, left secret instructions for Sam to convey a large cash bequest to her.

Given how much he could use the money himself, this sets up quite the moral dilemma for Sam. But as he gets to know his struggling sibling – Sam contrives to cross her path as though he were a chance acquaintance – less selfish considerations come to the fore. All the more so because Sam begins to bond with Frankie’s troubled preteen son Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario).

Conceived while his mom, a recovering alcoholic, was in the midst of a binge of drinking and anonymous sex, Josh doesn’t know who his father is because Frankie can’t say for sure herself. So his need for a male mentor to guide him back to the straight-and-narrow is patent. Scarred by his own dad’s parental deficiencies, Sam willingly plays the role of big brother/father figure to the lad.

Since Sam keeps delaying the big reveal, and persists in posing as nothing more than a would-be friend, Frankie, not surprisingly, starts to imagine an entirely different role for him in her life. This needlessly prolonged case of mistaken identity comes across as increasingly unrealistic on one level and as at least notionally icky on another. But, of course, things get wrapped up without anything remotely untoward transpiring.

While certainly not fit fare for youngsters, this generally warm offering will likely win over those adult viewers not deterred by the elements listed below.

The film contains cohabitation, brief semi-graphic sexual activity, drug use, an addiction theme, a few instances of profanity, at least one rough term and considerable crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

(By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service)