However, much like the unstoppable Fast & Furious series, it would seem that a fourth film has inspired the film makers to raise their creative game and reinvigorate their audience.
Scrat the squirrel has previously been little more than an annoyance, but from the outset here, the character is given genuinely amusing and entertaining misadventures to get lost in – his quest to chase the acorn literally sets in motion the events that drive the main characters’ plot.
As the titular continental drift happens, the audience is treated to wondrously rendered sequences of global meltdown – vast land masses split apart, tidal waves ripple across oceans, families are cleft in twain, and we find our heroes adrift at sea on a glacial life raft. Ice Age is one of those CGI properties that has felt slightly lacking behind the behemoths of Pixar or Dreamworks, but these sequences are both a delight to behold and also an exhilarating roller-coaster spectacle, made all the more effective and immersive by the use of 3D (which as ever, is best put to use in animation).
This transition to the sea-based narrative puts Manny the Mammoth into an Odyssean adventure as he and his friends race against time to find his wife and petulant teenage daughter: along the way encountering pirates, sirens, aboriginal warriors and giant sea monsters.
It’s in the pirate crew that we find the most to delight in this film. Peter Dinklage voices an exquisitely detailed monkey pirate captain by the name of Gutt. His crew creates the opportunity for a whole new cadre of voice talent to join the cast, which is where we find Jennifer Lopez and a hilarious Nick Frost, amongst others.
Running at a brisk but kid-friendly 90 minutes, there is enough time for swashbuckling adventure, important life lessons, some risqué humour for the grown-ups, some slapstick for the less grown-up, a sea shanty, and of course the obligatory celebration of family and friendship.
Ultimately this is as effective and efficient a Family Movie as one could hope to expect this Summer – it’s not clever, but it is big, bright, breezy and an awful lot of fun.