Movies: 'Ice Age: Continental Drift,' 'Medea's Witness Protection' & 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT"
There's no question that while this fourth installment of the popular animated comedy franchise is wearing thin, it's not facing extinction. Manny the morose woolly mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) is concerned about his rebellious tween daughter Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer) yearning to date a cool male mammoth (voiced by Drake): "Next thing you know, she's piercing her trunk."
Just after wishing she didn't have an interfering father, Peaches doesn't, as she and her mom Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah) watch Manny suddenly slide away on an ice floe that breaks off and floats out to sea. Joining Manny on his unexpected journey are Diego the sarcastic saber-toothed tiger (voiced by Denis Leary), Sid the neurotic sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo) and a newcomer to the group, Sid's sassy, wisecracking Granny (voiced by Wanda Sykes).
Their exciting Paleolithic adventure continues as they encounter perilous pirates who have commandeered an iceberg shaped like a Spanish galleon, led by evil, growling ape Captain Gutt (voiced by pint-sized Peter Dinklage from TV's "Game of Thrones") with his albino saber-toothed buccaneer sidekick, Shira (voiced by Jennifer Lopez), who serves as a love interest for Diego.
All this chaos was seemingly caused by Scrat, the twitchy squirrel-rat chasing that elusive acorn into the center of the Earth, causing a seismic ripple that fragments the outer crust that comprised the prehistoric land mass called Pangaea, setting new continents adrift. Undaunted, Scrat is determined to find an acorn-laden paradise called Scratchlantis. And having Scrat silently pursue his pantomime always pays off.
Co-written by Michael Berg and Jason Fuchs, the script is derivative, uninspiring and insipid, delivering familiarly emotional messages like "family sticks together" and "we don't leave friends behind."
On the other hand, Blue Sky's visuals are detailed and dazzling, probably worth the 3-D surcharge if your youngsters are willing to wear the cumbersome glasses.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Ice Age: Continental Drift" is a formulaic 5, frozen by predictability, alleviated only by a whimsically funny four-minute short featuring the Simpsons.
"TYLER PERRY'S MEDEA'S WITNESS PROTECTION"
In this seventh installment in Tyler Perry's highly successful comedy franchise, the saga continues as Madea's federal prosecutor nephew needs a place to hide hapless George Needleman (Eugene Levy), a Wall Street CFO who didn't realize that his investment firm was running a mob-backed Ponzi scheme that's been laundering money and cheating charities for years. George is marked for death by the Malone crime syndicate.
So George, his trophy, yoga-loving second wife Kate (Denise Richards), sullen teenage daughter Cindy (Danielle Campbell), overweight son Howie (Devan Leos) and semi-senile mother Barbara (Doris Roberts) move into skeptical Aunt Madea's Atlanta home. Explaining their presence to a neighbor, Madea identifies them as cousins who lost all the pigmentation in their skin overnight.
As the plot evolves, it introduces Jake (Romeo Miller), a pastor's son who lost his church's $114,000 mortgage fund after investing in the same scam that framed George but is unable to break the bad news to his father (John Amos).
Versatile New Orleans native Tyler Perry not only plays many parts, including matronly Madea, but also writes, directs and produces his own films. His TV show "House of Payne" is still a hit on TBS. His trash-talking, quick-tempered Madea actually started out as a supporting character in his 2005 melodrama "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and has grown in popularity, if not in girth, ever since.
The inspiration for this installment came when Perry was dining with friends, who suggested that the best punishment for Bernie Madoff would be to have him move in with Madea. This is the first Madea film not based on one of Perry's successful plays.
"I have no idea where Madea is going to go next," Perry confesses. "I was thinking of having her go to the White House and baby-sit Sasha and Malia Obama."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection" is frantic 5, filled with throwaway gags and self-conscious scenes, including Richards' ex-husband, Charlie Sheen, trying to grope Madea during the blooper credits.
"BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD"
A film festival favorite from Sundance to Cannes, this unlikely story merges "the poetics of an art film with something that feels like `Die Hard,' " according to its 29-year-old director Benh Zeitlin.
Set in a post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana swampland, the relationship story revolves around an unruly, precocious 6-year-old African-American girl called Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), who lives in a ramshackle hut connected by a long rope to the tree-house shack inhabited by her ailing alcoholic father, Wink (Dwight Henry). Apparently, her mother "swam away" years earlier. Acutely aware of the concrete levee that separates dry land from the tidal basin, called the Bathtub, Hushpuppy imagines the coming flood in terms of Arctic avalanches, releasing fantastic, prehistoric, boar-like creatures called aurochs. Even when a storm destroys her environment, she's a relentlessly optimistic survivalist, firmly believing that balance is the natural order of the universe.
Evoking "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," the narrative is presented in Hushpuppy's poetic voiceover, illuminating with magical realism her wonderment about the brutal, primordial wilderness in which she lives -- particularly when she's on a raft fashioned from an empty truck bed.
After meeting as teens at New York's Young Playwrights' festival, writer/musician/director Benh Zeitlin and Florida Panhandle native Lucy Alibar developed their concept, based on Alibar's off-off-Broadway play "Juicy and Delicious." Originally, the main character was a 9-year-old boy but when charismatic Quvenzhane Wallis appeared at an open audition, the part was altered to suit her. Other roles are also played by non-actors, like New Orleans baker Dwight Henry. Their grizzled faces with missing teeth resonate with authenticity.
A study of why people go to the movies concluded that we want to cross the transom of our social universe and enter the lives of people we cannot know in our own neighborhood. That's what this movie accomplishes, delivering not only knowledge but ideas, which is why it's significant.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a thrilling, transfixing 10, an evocative, contemporary allegory.