ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (Fox)
Dir. Mike Thurmeier, Galen T. Chu, Script. Michael J. Wilson, Micheal Berg, Yoni Brenner
Cast (voice): Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Chris Wedge
Plot: Climate change, dinosaurs, continental drift, and now an incoming asteroid. Once again it falls to this lot.
Persistence is a major buzzword floating around Los Angeles corridors these days: every studio is wishing, praying even, for a franchise that just sticks around no matter how. A bit like Pokémon really. But while that series has changed with the times, becoming more likely to get somebody out of the house than a house-fire, a family gathering or an impending nuclear attack, Ice Age has…not really moved (granted, it is set in prehistoric times, but I don’t see a transition into augmented reality any time soon). But it’s damn persistent – name me another animated franchise with five feature-length theatrical movies. You’re wrong by the way, there isn’t one, for the good reason that five movies is far into the realm of creative wasteland, where the entire premise has run out of steam – and Ice Age doesn’t have Dwayne Johnson to energise their franchise.
As much as the Ice Age series has probably overstayed its welcome by a considerable distance now, the team behind it have just about extracted enough fumes from their characters’ petrol tanks to make the car run, even if only for now. Ironically, the final coughs from this franchise’s storytelling engine are derived from whacking a great big meteor into the mix, and leaving the ragtag collection of ancient animals to deal with it in their own way. As you might expect from that quick State Of The Union Address, this is totally stupid – but somehow Ice Age 5 keeps its head above water (the ice has definitely cooled however) with a simple, diverting story that stays on track just enough to please kids and maybe you, as long as you don’t actually try to think about it, in which case it’s total rubbish. It’s one of those films that you DEFINITELY have to turn your brain off for, and let the incredulity of a plot that genuinely involves magnetic asteroids, comedic possums, a family of disavowed dromaeosaurs and the fountain of fucking youth, ALL AT THE SAME TIME, fill your mind.
While it can be enjoyable in places (an extended cameo by Neil DeGrasse Tyson helps), I’m afraid this film melts into a wash of negatives and forgettable scenes. Certainly, there’s fatigue on show for the triad of Manny, Sid and Diego with which the franchise began all the way back in 2002 – what once was a team now feels like a Year 7 food-tech group, trying to make brownies and failing, blaming each other for the critical failings in that most complex of procedures. Manny, voiced by the eternally deadpan Ray Romano, probably gets the best treatment, giving him a romantic relationship with fellow mammoth Ellie (Queen Latifah) which at least feels loosely genuine, and a subplot involving him learning to let go of daughter Peaches (Jennifer Lopez) as she falls in love with Adam DeVine’s supremely annoying Julian. DeVine and Romano’s infighting throughout the film make both extremely annoying to experience. Sid, voiced by a never-lazier John Leguizamo, has never been written lazier, and his ‘jokes’ are supremely forced. Diego, meanwhile, might as well have been ignored completely. The team dynamic has most certainly been forgotten and superceded by Manny’s domestics, which somewhat function as their own plotlines but feel more forced compared to what came before.
This emphasis on family drama is also in lieu of the quite pressing fact that THERE IS AN ASTEROID HEADING TOWARDS YOU. In one definite positive, the suddenly impending apocalypse convinces likeably insane weasel Buck, voiced by an enthusiastic Simon Pegg, to resurface. Buck gets Collision Course‘s best sequence, a ‘one-take’ tracking shot set to him saving a dinosaur’s child to his own rendition of ‘Pigaro’, a sequence so delightfully stupid it can’t help but be enjoyed. But the asteroid plotline feels negligible at best, the characters spending half the film acting as if no such thing is happening. It seems the three-pronged fork of a writing team decided to stab the storyline in the neck and puncture its lung rather than pick the story up and let the audience eat it. The whole thing feels disjointed, with plenty of set-pieces that have little or no relevance, shoe-horned into the movie to get it just over the feature-length threshold, coming in at a merciful 94 minutes.
However, despite all the stuff I’m saying, I’m not reviewing the latest Steven Spielberg movie (for now, anyway), I’m covering a family animation, and when I’m reviewing one I have to approach it with a more simple angle. Is it fun? There’s a few fun things, a few funny lines (although they can only be found amidst an Antarctic Peninsula of toilet humour, unfunny things uttered by the world’s most annoying possums, and generally bad writing), and just enough of a plotline to keep the movie on the rails. With a runtime as short as this, there’s not much dragging besides a few awkward sequences – even the now traditional Scrat-wants-his-acorn-but-can-never-get-it vignettes are tired, the once brilliant slapstick now an unwelcome distraction, the squirrel’s perpetual plight a beautiful metaphor for the continuing purposeless existence of a franchise that, while delivering a fifth movie that functions and distracts to a degree, has most definitely consumed all of its storytelling resources completely for the sake of extra Fox profit. And with the polar regions now having definitely melted away, the best option is to call in Greenpeace.
BEST WATCHED: It’s pretty useless – if you want to distract a 3 year old for an hour and a half then it could come in to play?
Ice Age 6? Probably a bad idea, but the film’s co-director has stated that some thoughts have been floated around on the subject – nothing confirmed yet though, thankfully. Cast-wise, Leguizamo has a role in Bryan Cranston drug-bust thriller The Inflitrator, as well as appearing in John Wick: Chapter Two alongside Keanu Reeves, and Simon Pegg’s next film is out NOW. He is of course returning to the Star Trek series in Star Trek Beyond, for which he co-wrote the screenplay as well as stars in, once again joining up with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and the tragically killed Anton Yelchin, for whom the film is sombrely dedicated.