Ice Age: Collision Course

still from the film

Ice Age: Collision Course could be the 10th film in the wacky children’s franchise, or the 50th. It doesn’t really matter (technically, it is the 5th). Film critics like to lambast the longevity of movie franchises, but we all cynically acknowledge the commercial drive behind them. Kids’ films, in particular, seem to invite a steady accumulation of instalments, because children love seeing the same old familiar faces in movies, and while they will eventually outgrow their favourite franchises over time, another younger generation will quickly replace them. This has already happened with Ice Age, as the first film came out 14 years ago (!).

There will always be an audience young enough to enjoy more films featuring Manny the woolly mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), Diego the saber-toothed cat (Denis Leary) and various other herd members gathered over time, including Manny’s wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), Diego’s wife Shira (Jennifer Lopez) and Sid’s granny (Wanda Sykes). As long as these voice actors get paid oodles of money to phone in their extremely facile thespian work, Ice Age will last into, well, the next ice age.

In Collision Course, Scrat the sabre-toothed squirrel (Chris Wedge) manages to launch himself into space via a Star Trek-like spaceship (don’t bother asking how that’s possible). He inadvertently hurls space rocks towards Earth, including a massive asteroid that could prove catastrophic.

Back at home, Manny fails to deal with his overprotective fatherly instincts as his daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) prepares to leave the nest. In typical masculine fashion, Manny projects his negativity onto Peaches’ goofy but affable fiancé Julian (Adam DeVine).

When the Herd realizes the fatal danger presented by the asteroid, a new character arrives to save the day: the highly intelligent and mercurial weasel, Buck (Simon Pegg), who hatches a scheme to divert the massive asteroid away from hitting Earth. They discover the space rocks have electromagnetic properties, meaning if they launch the landed rocks from a volcano, it will attract the larger asteroid away from Earth. Meanwhile, they must also ward off a bullyish family of Dromaeosaurs (voiced by Nick Offerman, Stephanie Beatriz and Max Greenfield) who are angry with Buck for stealing their food.

The science behind Buck’s plan is of course nothing more than mumbo jumbo, but what with this being a kid’s film and all, the logic is neither here nor there. It’s worth noting that Buck’s scheme requires a fairly comprehensive explanation of electromagnetism; that educational component – featuring a strange cameo from Neil deGrasse Tyson – should ease any parents’ concerns their children are watching nothing more than a fatuous, fast-paced physical comedy.

Not that Collision Course lacks mindless shenanigans, of course, because every Ice Age film begins with the lightning-fast kineticism of Scrat’s escapades as he tries to save his prized acorn from whatever that ails him. In this instance, space-specific obstacles like gravity, lack of oxygen and nefarious blast doors get in his way. Scrat’s foibles are like Looney Tunes on speed, but without the cosmic irony (no pun intended) that grounded the original cartoon series within its own tragicomic pathos.

While Scrat’s misadventures prove to be nothing more than an exercise in flexing the fast-motion animation muscles of Blue Sky Studios, other sequences, like the impressive introduction of Buck, who seamlessly jumps and flies around the air as fast as a lightning bolt in his rescue of a dino egg from the Dromaeosaurs’ hungry mouths, actually proves to be rather impressive.

It’s amazing to compare the two scenes in terms of effectiveness: Buck’s adventures have purpose and meaning, and to that end, allow the viewer to lose themselves in that fast-paced immersive animation, whereas Scrat exists solely to entertain children too young to understand anything else. It’s a shame the Ice Age writers don’t try to even out their storytelling efforts throughout the entire film. It might make a prehistoric franchise like Ice Age interesting for adults once again.