A good movie is as much about what's in it as what's not. Ice Age 4: Continental Drift-this summer's follow-up on the prehistoric adventures of Manny, Diego, and Sid-would have been a B movie had it peddled the jaded wares of contemporary culture (obscene humor, a weak father figure, and a politicized idea of family and community).
The PG film makes the A-list by tossing those elements in the rubbish heap, offering instead an old-fashioned adventure story about a father who is strong and good, a close-knit family, and the gift of true friendship. Be forewarned: There will be frequent laughter.
The films opens with the obsessed squirrel, Scrat, doing what he's been doing since the dawn of time-trying to get an acorn. Blindly pursuing happiness, he plummets to the center of the earth, chasing his coveted prize around the planet's spherical core with seismic consequences. Earth's central landmass begins to split, becoming Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, Australia, and Antarctica.
While Scrat struggles to catch his acorn, things are falling apart on terra firma. To make matters worse, Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) is coping with the fact that his daughter, Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer), is not a little girl any more and wants to go where the cool crowd goes and nothing good happens-The Falls.
When Peaches sneaks off to the forbidden destination with her friend Louis, Manny goes to find her and bring her home, much to her chagrin.
"I'm trying to protect you," Manny tells her. "That's what dads do." At that instant, things get interesting. The earth splits and Manny, Diego, and Sid are cast adrift on a floating iceberg.
"No matter what it takes," Manny yells across the widening chasm to his wife and daughter, "I'll come back." And he does, despite pirates, sirens, and a cantankerous granny, proving what we all know to be true: Nothing is more powerful than a man's or a mammoth's love for his family.