In the very first Ice Age movie Manny the woolly mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the saber tooth tiger (Denis Leary) and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) took a short cut through an icy cave system containing the frozen remains of creatures even stranger and more ancient than our central trio. During their subterranean journey the group briefly glimpsed an alien spaceship encased in the ice, and that throwaway gag apparently inspired the premise of Ice Age: Collision Course, the fifth entry the enduringly popular Ice Age franchise. While this instalment, co-directed by franchise veteran Mike Thurmeier and newcomer Galen Chu, will doubtless add several hundred million dollars to the series’ current $2.8 billion gross, the dubious, extra-terrestrial themed origins of Ice Age: Collision Course hint that the diminishing creative returns apparent in the previous three films will continue unabated here.
Adhering to Ice Age tradition, the film opens on Scrat, the acorn-obsessed, inadvertently hyper-destructive saber tooth squirrel with an unfortunate habit of triggering global scale catastrophes. This time Scrat’s relentlessly ill-fated quest to safely cache his prize leads to a glacially entombed alien spaceship that he quickly (and accidentally) proceeds to pilot into space. In the screwball sequence that follows Scrat ricochets between planetary bodies, unknowingly altering the trajectory of a giant asteroid and putting it on a direct collision course with Earth. The film’s suggestion that Scrat’s shenanigans are responsible for the current composition of our Solar System is amusingly bizarre, though one wonders if the playful disregard for historical and scientific accuracy endemic to this series sometimes creates unnecessary confusion for younger viewers.
Back on Earth Manny and his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) are upset to discover that their daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) plans to leave the herd and roam free with her fiancé Julian (Adam DeVine) following their upcoming wedding. Those plans are put on hold when a sudden meteor shower interrupts Manny and Ellie’s anniversary party, forcing the mammoths and their friends Sid, Granny (Wanda Sykes), Diego and his mate Shira (Jennifer Lopez) and twin opossums Crash (Sean William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) to seek cover in a nearby cave. It soon becomes clear that the shower is a mere prelude to the real extinction level event approaching in the form of a giant asteroid and the herd sets out to avert the end of life as they know it with the help of Buck (Simon Pegg), the debonair if slightly unhinged one-eyed weasel last seen in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Pursued by a family of Dakotaraptors (voiced by sitcom stars Nick Offerman, Max Greenfield and Stephanie Beatriz) seeking revenge on Buck the herd hurries towards the site of several previous impact events, guided by an ancient prophecy uncovered by Buck. Along the way they stumble upon Geotopia, the Palaeolithic equivalent of a hippie commune where a small community of creatures (including a new love interest for Sid voiced by Jessie J) live inside the crystal-encrusted shell of a long ago crashed asteroid. The herd needs to convince Geotopia’s detached, isolationist spiritual leader the Shangri Llama (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) to help them prevent the coming apocalypse.
Like the three preceding instalments, Ice Age: Collision Course fails to recapture the simple magic of the original film, preferring to add a glut of new, wacky, inevitably one-dimensional characters to the franchise rather than focus on the development of existing characters like Diego and Shira. Simon Pegg manages to distinguish himself from the cacophony of celebrity voices with his delightfully deranged performance as Buck, as does Ray Romano in his portrayal of a father struggling to adjust to his only child leaving home. Had Thurmeier and Chu spent more time on Manny’s grief and feelings of rejection and less on anachronistic tinder and twitter references and generic, upbeat musical numbers Ice Age: Collision Course might have been a better film, but it’s sure to please its target audience regardless.