Ice Age: Collision Course, the fifth installment in this lamentably long-lived animated franchise, is the last Ice Age movie I intend to see. In a way, this review is superfluous. That’s because Ice Age: Collision Course isn’t a movie. Oh, it’s projected on multiplex screens but it is, at best, an oversized, overbudgeted Saturday morning cartoon.
Younger kids will have fun with the movie. It’s in their wheelhouse. The juvenile jokes will amuse them and the braindead storyline won’t confuse them or hinder their ability to enjoy the subpar 3-D and cheapish animation. Adults – well, that’s another story. Admittedly, this isn’t made for people over the age of about 10. But most children need adult accompaniment to attend a movie and, in this case, the sacrificial lamb can add another thing to the list of “things I sacrificed to have kids.” I found the experience nearly unendurable and was fighting the urge to take a nap.
Finding Dory is still in theaters. So is The Secret Lives of Pets. Both have their flaws but they are real movies. Compared to them, Ice Age: Collision Course is an embarrassment. It’s a cash grab of the most crass kind, using the lure of familiar characters and a marketable name to fill 20th Century Fox’s coffers. The movie’s story doesn’t try to make sense because, well, what’s the point? We’re so deep in cartoonland here that all but the most rudimentary aspects of the narrative have been jettisoned. This is about wisecracking, anthropomorphic animals and disaster film clichés.
Everyone is back, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. The main Ice Age trio of Manny the Mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), and Diego the Sabertooth Tiger (Denis Leary) were never that exciting to begin with and familiarity had not made the heart grow fonder. They are rejoined by Manny’s family – wife Ellie (Queen Latifa), grown-up daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer), and soon-to-be-son-in-law Julian (Adam Devine); Deigo’s wife, Shira (Jennifer Lopez); and Sid’s granny (Wanda Sykes). Simon Pegg’s Buck is also back, meaning that, aside from Julian, the only newcomers in chapter five are lesser figures like Neil deBuck Weasel (Neil deGrasse Tyson), Shangri Llama (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and Brooke a.k.a. Sid’s overdue love interest (Jessie J).
Also returning, of course, is Scrat the Sabertooth Squirrel. This Wiley Coyote-inspired creature with bug eyes and a desperate love for acorns has been one of the high points of the Ice Age saga. Scrat’s segments, disconnected vignettes reminiscent of the old Looney Tunes shorts, have not only offered amusing interludes from the more staid activities of the speaking characters but have featured heavily in the marketing campaigns. This time, however, even Scrat is showing signs of becoming stale. In Collision Course, he’s chasing an acorn in outer space and on a space ship and the level of inventiveness and manic energy associated with his past exploits is missing.
After having faced global warming, dinosaurs, and continental drift, this time the prehistoric mammals are pitted against an extinction event asteroid. Determined to do to our furry friends what something similar did to the dinosaurs (at least those not enjoying life in their underground hidden world), this chunk of galactic debris is headed for Earth, forcing Peaches to postpone her wedding plans and Ellie to stop sniping at Manny for forgetting their anniversary. If a way can’t be found to divert the asteroid (where’s Bruce Willis when you need him?), there won’t be a sixth Ice Age film. (Go, asteroid, go!)
Although the trajectory of the Ice Age films hasn’t been consistently downward, Collision Course is the worst of the batch. With all due respect to co-directors Mike Thurmeier and Galen T. Chu (both of whom worked on earlier Ice Age films), this one feels not only obligatory but lazy. I understand that in today’s movie-making economy, lucrative productions must always have sequels. But there’s nothing that says the sequels have to be flat, lifeless, and creatively bankrupt. Disney and Dreamworks consistently churn out product that’s as enjoyable for someone age 40 as it is for someone age 4. No one will ever mistake Ice Age: Collision Course for one of those movies.
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When you lift bad situation comedy out of countless television series and throw it up on the big screen as a “family” feature film, “Ice Age: Collision Course” is what happens.
Releasing this now is a bold move, considering the superior “The Secret Life of Pets,” with its ubiquitous marketing, and the excellent “Finding Dory” are not only in theaters near you, but in theaters right next to “Ice Age.” It’s impossible not to compare them.
Can it be 14 years ago that the first “Ice Age” appeared? In that one, which was an enjoyable romp and a nod to the classic John Wayne film “3 Godfathers,” we met Ray Romano as Manny, a woolly mammoth, John Leguizamo as Sid, a goofy and somewhat annoying sloth, and Denis Leary as Diego, a saber-tooth tiger. Over the years, the cast has grown to include Queen Latifah as Ellie, Manny’s wife, and Shira, (Jennifer Lopez) a female saber-tooth tiger who now is Diego’s mate.
Audiences familiar with the series will recognize the star of the short movie before the features. The Scrat keeps pursuing an acorn and ends up on a space voyage that is linked to a series of events that could spell doom for all the creatures below on earth. Meanwhile, oblivious to the danger they face, Manny and Ellie worry that their daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) will travel far away when she marries Julian (Adam DeVine,) a well-meaning but awkward mammoth.
A fast-talking, crazy-acting weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg) interprets the carving on a stone that reveals an asteroid is plummeting toward the earth. Buck is one of the most irritating characters in all of animation, spouting gibberish and bizarre dialogue that isn’t funny – it’s just strange.
Meanwhile, Ellis and Manny plot to keep their daughter close to home, Sid continues to strike out with the ladies, and the saber-tooth tigers wonder whether they would be good parents.
With each subsequent installment in the Ice Age series, the narratives get lazier and lazier with dozens of characters who audiences can’t remember all making cameo appearances. The fifth edition is so formulaic and so unfunny that it will put all but the most undiscerning viewers into a bored coma. The plot is so non-urgent for an end of the world flick that it basically just serves as a pointless peg to hang random sequences of poor familial drama and humorless jokes. Scrat provides the only laughs in the feature. How about Blue Sky ditch the boring Manny and co. and make a wordless Scrat spinoff film. That might be the only thing that can lift this cinematic universe out of its creative dump.
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