Lacking even the briefest flicker of a joke not culled from the fart-gag, pop-cultural-reference grab bag, the latest installment in Fox’s most durable kiddie franchise offers unreasonably devoted parents less than usual to look forward to. Manny the mammoth (Romano) et al. stumble into their own land of the lost under the ice. Their mission: rescue Sid the sloth (Leguizamo), held hostage by a T. Rex who’s irate that Sid is trying to raise her kids. The 3-D animation is impressive, but even with Simon Pegg (Star Trek) as their deranged weasel guide, the jungle adventure is wan and the jokes are worse.
Armchair sociologists, however, will have much to ponder: Why is the lisping, gender-confused Sid—universally disrespected by everyone—the character with the strongest urge to be “mommy”? Is it a parody of Manny’s overparenting—his desire, chided by partner Ellie (Queen Latifah), to “childproof nature”—equating excessively concerned dads with androgynous asexuals? Is this whole thing actually an assault on the family? Is it really necessary to have an end message about staying with the herd and socialization? Are jokes about women making men move furniture still supposed to be funny?—Vadim Rizov