It’s no better than mediocre, with some good gags buried under an avalanche of attempts that don’t land.
When it comes to making money, kid’s animated features are a good bet. Not every one hits it big, of course, but there’s a ready audience, worldwide, for this type of film, and it doesn’t take a great film to bring in revenues measured in hundreds of millions of dollars and sometimes in the billions.
This economic fact explains why Ice Age: Collision Course, the fifth movie in the Ice Age franchise, exists. It’s no better than mediocre, with some good gags buried under an avalanche of attempts that don’t land and only makes the barest attempt at providing any characterization for the many animated creatures that populate its increasingly crowded cast. The saving grace of Ice Age is the quality of the animation, which remains stunning and takes full advantage of the possibilities offered by 3D, but no one seems interested in putting all that admirable technical work to use telling any kind of story. Instead, you get one comic bit after another, strung out like wash on the line, with only the merest attempt to integrate them into any kind of coherent story.
Scrat (Chris Wedge) is still pursuing his acorn, and his ability to screw things up provides some of the best laughs of the film. He also sets the plot, such as it is, in motion, by dislodging a meteor shower that threatens to destroy life as they know it for the wooly mammoth clan and their pals. Back on earth, Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are facing the fact that their little girl, Peaches (Keke Palmer), is growing up. In fact, she’s engaged to Julian (Adam Devine), and the couple plans to move away after their marriage.
Julian is a bit of a screw-up, but Peaches loves him, and so do the writers (Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, and Yoni Brenner), because they give a whole lot more lines and action to him than they do to her. The same is true in the older generation of mammoths, and throughout the animated animal kingdom, in fact—characters voiced by men get more lines and more things to do than those voiced by women. So all the technology in the world hasn’t changed the fact that, even in an entirely invented universe, guys rule. This is standard practice in family movies, but that doesn’t means that the message it sends should be acceptable for kids or anyone else.
Ice Age is positively stuffed with sidekick characters, each of which has exactly one characteristic and most of whom are so underwritten and randomly visualized that you wouldn’t know what species they are supposed to be did the screenplay not spell it out for you. Buck the weasel (Simon Pegg) is lively, Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) is neurotic, Granny (Wanda Sykes) is sarcastic, and Neil deBuck Weasel (Neil deGrasse Tyson) is brainy. A few science lessons are crammed in amongst all the frenzy, but no more than you will find in a typical Encyclopedia Brown story, and the kids can read those at the library for free.
Because it’s parents that buy the tickets and bring the kids to the movies, Ice Age attempts to court adult audiences with callouts to classic movies (2001, The Wizard of Oz) and well-aged cultural icons (Lost in Space), as well as predictable sitcom tropes (husband forgets his wife’s anniversary, old people are not attractive or sexual), but they fall as flat as most of the gags aimed at the kids. I saw this movie at a Saturday morning screening full of children and parents, and for all the frantic action up on the screen, there weren’t a lot of laughs coming from the audience. Judging by this movie, it’s time to retire the Ice Age franchise. Or, if 20th Century Fox is reluctant to give up on their cash cow, they should at least show good faith by making half an effort to make a good movie the next time around. | Sarah Boslaugh