Ice Age: Collision Course is apocalyptic in the most literal sense, with the fuzzy, wooly heroes of the now 14-year-old franchise fighting off extinction by diverting a glowing meteor that threatens to wipe out every living creature on earth. When it comes to kids movies, this animated junkpile is bizarrely, awkwardly morbid: one of the promotional posters reads “kiss your ice goodbye” in big letters, and almost every joke, plot development and idea the movie flings at you is as off-putting, if not moreso.
It’s a genuine wonder how this fifth installment managed to find its way onto the big screen when it’s clearly meant to go the way of the dinosaurs. (And by “the dinosaurs” I mean those baby dinos from the Land Before Time, a franchise that had enough sense to go the direct-to-video route from the second installment on.) The series’ charm has been worn down for years, and while furry animals shaking their rumps, farting and bonking their heads on things may be evergreen entertainment to toddlers and distracted homemakers who glance at the screen between chores, for those looking for some clean, animated fun, part five is an all but laughless affair.
The plot begins, familiarly, with twitchy rodent Scrat losing his acorn, the slipperiest inanimate object in movie history. His chase brings him to the innards of an alien spacecraft stuck in a giant block of ice. By accident, he manages to free the saucer from its blue prison, launching it into outer space and knocking into so many cosmic bodies that it creates our solar system as we know it and launches a giant hunk of magnetic rock toward earth, spelling impending disaster for our mammalian protags.
Back on the blue marble, we catch up with wooly mammoth patriarch Manny (Ray Romano), who’s having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that his grown-up daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) has got a new number one man in her life in fiancé Julian (Adam Devine). He goes all protective-dad on poor Julian (a dope, but a harmless one), and while his wife, Ellie (Queen Latifah) likes their future son-in-law just fine, she too is uncomfortable with letting their baby girl go.
Poop hits the prehistoric fan when Manny and the others realize that the meteor barrelling toward them could end all of their problems in the worst way. The mammoths huddle with sabretooths Diego (Denis Leary) and Shira (Jennifer Lopez) and sloths Sal (John Leguizamo) and Granny (Wanda Sykes), cowering in fear as fiery doomsday rocks rain from the sky (having fun yet, kids?), until a swashbuckling weasel aptly named Buck (Simon Pegg) proposes a plan to trek toward where the meteor will hit to find out what’s attracting it and find some way to alter its trajectory.
There are so many stupid quasi-quasi-science things going on in this movie that it’s not just implausible, but insolently implausible. Ice Age is meant to be viewed by impressionable kids who are at the ripest age to absorb information, and by wrapping real-world science facts with utter nonsense it becomes borderline unconscionable. Straight-up zaniness is fine; straight-up science is fine. But to tell kids that Mars once looked a lot like earth (true) and then show them that it was turned all red and dusty by Scrat crashing a flying saucer into it isn’t funny or educational or entertaining. It’s just stupid. What’s worse, a certain popular, mustachioed astrophysicist makes an appearance, a strange cameo I still can’t wrap my head around. Why would he agree to be a part of this thing?
You could ask the same question of the rest of the cast, each of whom has done such terrific, successful work elsewhere that you’d think they would’ve passed on this surefire box office turd. Ice Age: Collision Course’s sole strength is the work of the digital artists, who’ve got the talking-animal thing nailed. The few laughs that do arise throughout the movie’s mercifully short 95-minute runtime are conjured by the animators, who clearly have a deep understanding of physical comedy and timing. Scrat’s wordless, Looney Toons-inspired interludes are the best bits by far, mostly because they give us a moment of respite from the earthbound idiocracy.
The Ice Age series hits even lower lows in this insolently implausible, laughless trek toward the apocalypse.