In its 14-year lifespan, the Ice Age franchise has never varied from its “family first” ethos – your family may not be the one you grew up with, but the one you find later in life, and both families are equally important. Granted, the quality of the films has changed from cute to loathsome and everything in between, yet there’s something undeniably fun and attracting about these movies that keeps audiences coming back for more. What that “something” is, I may never know, but here we go with the fifth full-length feature in the series, Ice Age: Collision Course.
These films seem to follow the same, formulaic path: set up cute and ferocious animals with celebrity voices, give them a little bit of an interpersonal conflict, but overshadow said conflict with some kind of historically-conceivable extinction-level event bearing straight down on them. And before you know it, extinction has safely passed them by, the tensions are defused, and both the film’s characters and audience leave the film happier and wiser than before. By now, the creative team behind the Ice Age films has got the routine down by the numbers, resulting in a fairly funny and exciting fifth film.
The core family has all returned, with wooly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), ground sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), and saber-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) once again leading The Herd. Also returning are their families/significant others – Manny’s wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and his daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer), Ellie’s adopted opossum brothers Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck), Diego’s girlfriend Shira (Jennifer Lopez), and Sid’s girlfriend Francine (Melissa Rauch). Well, maybe not that last one, after she dumps him for being too clingy.
Also returning is Scrat (Chris Wedge), that lovable donk of a prehistoric squirrel who’s always looking for an acorn and a place to bury it. This time, he buries it in a glacier which also houses an alien UFO (you guys remember the ship from the first movie and the baby waving the Vulcan salute at it?), which Scrat finds his way into and powers up. As must happen in the opening title sequence of each film, the consequences of Scrat’s actions are always brought to bear upon The Herd; this time, he knocks into an asteroid field and starts a chain reaction which sends an Armageddon-style “global killer” asteroid hurtling toward Earth.
This is where it runs off the rails, and it’s only the beginning of the movie. Funny I should mention Armageddon, because not only is Michael Bay’s 1998 disaster film referred to in the dialogue (and in Ice Age: Collision Course’s epilogue), this film uses one of the score tracks from it! Even the look of the asteroid itself is lifted from Armageddon. Of course, the typical Ice Age shenanigans are dropped in, because, well, it’s an Ice Age movie; but for all intents and purposes, this is 20th Century Fox doing a direct Armageddon remake. After all, Armageddon belonged to Walt Disney (the parent company of Touchstone Pictures) and its rival Deep Impact belonged to Paramount Pictures; I guess they’re finally getting in on the fun with their own big-budget dis-asteroid movie.
That said, Ice Age: Collision Course is typical Ice Age fun – which means, of course, your mileage may vary. There are a lot of borderline risqué jokes that may fly right over the intended audience’s head and land straight in older viewers’ laps (a lot of reproductive and toilet jokes come to mind). Humor concerning the elderly and the mentally slow abound, but the film also celebrates smarts with its inclusion of the hyperfast-talking Buck (Simon Pegg) and physicist Neil deGrasse-Tyson, with the latter spending his screen time taking the mickey out of movies like this.
Its visual appeal never falters, which is one of Ice Age: Collision Course’s few strengths. The animation is some of the best I’ve seen, especially in the land called “Geotopia,” where geodes sparkle and create a sort of Fountain of Youth-like effect for those in close proximity. And throughout it all, the trio of Romano, Leguizamo, and Leary – the heart of the Ice Age series – all seem to be well at home with their characters, even if they sound a little weary. No matter how inane the script may get at times, they have a way of being able to elevate it and make it at least palatable for the more discerning. Yup – Ice Age: Collision Course may not break any new ground, but it certainly doesn’t mind making itself comfortable and borderline delightful.