It’s hard to shake off that feeling of fatigue as you sit there in your seat watching Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, the fourth, and sadly most formulaic installment in the popular animated series.

The new film reacquaints us with old favorites Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), sabre-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and over-protective mammoth Manny (Ray Romano) who is struggling to come to terms with the fact that his now-teenage daughter isn’t Daddy’s Little Girl anymore. There’s an obligatory message here about parenting and coming-of-age, but it all feels factory-made rather than a labor of love.

In the film’s clever opening scene, Scrat, the prehistoric squirrel, in his endless pursuit of that coveted acorn, accidentally causes the breakup of the earth’s single landmass, which in turn results in the creation of the continents. As mountains start crumbling and the ground splits open, Manny is separated from his wife and daughter when he gets stranded on an iceberg with Diego, Sid, and Sid’s feisty ol’ granny.

As Manny as his friends toil hard towards reuniting with their loved ones, they find themselves swept into the path of fearsome orangutan pirate, Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), who appears determined to thwart their homecoming plans.

Despite the gorgeous animation, Continental Drift lacks the simple charm of the previous films. The movie relies too heavily on large set-pieces and breakneck pace, pointing to the possibility that the franchise has in fact started to flag.

On the upside, new characters like Captain Gutt, Sid’s granny, and white tigress Shira (Jennifer Lopez) who spars with Diego, infuse new blood and energy into the proceedings, even as Scrat can always be counted on for genuine laughs. The 3D is exploited fully to deliver the spectacle of this Pirates of Caribbean-style adventure that little ones will find hard to resist.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. It’s harmless fun for younger audiences, but adults who loved the earlier films will agree that it’s time to put these animals down.

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