'Ice Age: Collision Course': Film Review

This pun-ishing fifth installment treads on awfully thin ice.

Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary return in a franchise that's starting to show its age.

Toward the end of Ice Age: Collision Course, while attempting to divert the path of an incoming killer asteroid, Ray Romano’s woolly mammoth Manny sighs, “This isn’t working.” It’s a sentiment likely to be shared by many enduring this disappointing chaotic fifth installment of the wildly successful computer-animated franchise.

While the Ice Age movies have increasingly tended to place shtick ahead of substance, there had always remained a certain sweetness at their core, manifested through the various milestones taking place in the main characters’ prehistoric lives. Sadly, 15 years in, even the domestic developments surrounding Manny and his brood have been relegated to the sidelines, displaced by too many shrill characters frantically attempting to pad the emaciated plot.

Given the films’ track record, there’s still sufficient distraction for younger fans to allow Fox to handily build on the more than $2.8 billion they’ve amassed in worldwide grosses to date (it had its premiere at the Sydney Film Festival), but others can’t help but notice the vast emptiness of it all.

The new chapter, as with the previous ones, kicks off with a Scrat prologue, with Neil deGrasse Tyson this time providing the introduction as the hapless saber-tooth squirrel is chasing his elusive acorn throughout the cosmos, ping-ponging off celestial bodies and helping to initiate the Big Bang Theory in the process.

Meanwhile, back down on terra firma, Manny and Ellie (Queen Latifah) aren’t exactly thrilled about the impending marriage between daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) and the perpetually upbeat Julian (newcomer Adam Devine), but the threat of an empty nest quickly takes a backseat to that ginormous, fiery rock hurtling toward them. Manny desperately needs to come up with a plan, but it’s hard to concentrate, what with the cacophony of creatures that have been crammed into IA5.

Joining the likes of Sid (John Leguizamo), Diego (Denis Leary), Shira (Jennifer Lopez) and Granny (Wanda Sykes) is a whole menagerie of new characters played by Nick Offerman, singer Jessie J, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Michael Strahan, among others.

It’s as if co-directors Michael Thurmeier and Galen Tan Chu, both veterans of the Ice Age franchise, sensed that there was essentially nowhere left to go with the concept and opted to instead overstuff the production with too many characters breathlessly doing tired, pop culture-heavy “bits” like it was open mic night at the Paleolithic Punch Line.

Even when screenwriters Michael Wilson, Michael Berg and Yoni Brenner, also no strangers to the Ice Age universe, attempt to introduce something fresher, such as Geotopia, a new age-y community living inside a giant geode, the concept never comes to life.

In the absence of a skeleton of a storyline to hang a film upon, you’ve got a lot more of Simon Pegg’s hyper swashbuckling weasel Buck (he sat out Dawn of the Dinosaurs) and noticeably more Scrat, which is never a bad thing — although every time the film checks up on his outer space adventures, it disrupts whatever remaining investment there was in its main plotline.

As always, it all at least looks very nice — the Ice Age movies could always be counted on to possess a state-of-the-art, visual luster, and Collision Course certainly does well by those 3D glasses. At times it feels as if you could reach right out and stroke all that undulating CG fur.

For the most part, though, that blazing asteroid can’t arrive soon enough.

Distributor: Fox
Production companies: Twentieth Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios
Cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Adam Devine, Keke Palmer, Max Greenfield, Jessie J, Jessie Tyler Ferguson, Josh Peck, Simon Pegg, Seann William Scott, Wanda Sykes
Directors: Michael Thurmeier, Galen Tan Chu
Screenwriters: Michael Wilson, Michael Berg, Yoni Brenner
Producer: Lori Forte
Executive producers: Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
Editor: James Palumbo
Composer: John Debney

Rated PG, 94 minutes