In Ice Age: Collision Course, the 5th entry in animated franchise which first debuted 2002, the central characters once again find themselves in extreme peril and reacting to it in kind. Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), overly worries, his best friend—the sabertooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary)—attempts to keep him grounded through reason, and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) continues to irk everyone around him with potty humor and occasionally screeches in distress.
The wheel of implausible danger this time around has landed on asteroids as the threat facing the group. Due to Scrat—the once lovable prehistoric squirrel who relentlessly pursues his acorn—being launched into space and inadvertently wreaking havoc on celestial bodies, a massive rock is now hurling towards the planet threatening an extinction-level type of event. Manny and his friends take off to discover a way to prevent the imminent global destruction and of course learn some trivial lessons about friendship and family along the way.
What works in Ice Age: Collision Course is Simon Pegg. His character, Buck the weasel, makes a triumphant return to the series after an introduction in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, but being wholly absent in the last film, Ice Age: Continental Drift. One-part adventurer, one-part philosopher, one-part questionably crazy, Pegg imbues Buck with joyous enthusiasm, and attempts to energize the film in a way it desperately needs. His antics are almost always amusing as he bounces around the screen like a swashbuckler, taunting his foes. Even Buck’s musical number, although forced, is entertaining, all thanks to Pegg.
While Ice Age: Collision Course makes a wise decision to bring back a beloved character, every other decision—the important ones about plot, character development, humor, and fun—are mishandled to an atrocious degree. The tone of Ice Age: Collision Course waffles uncomfortably between gross and just plain weird, almost daring patrons to take the children accompanying them out for ice cream halfway through. Returning to Scrat for a moment as an example—his character is mutilated, disfigured, disintegrated, transmogrified, and liquefied to a degree that would be questionable on an episode of Itchy and Scratchy, let alone PG fare targeted to young audiences.
Furthermore, while no film is beholden to any standard decreeing that it must present science factually, Ice Age: Collision Course goes to unusual lengths to try to present physics and astronomy lawfully, but grossly inaccurately. They go so far as to employ renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (as Neil deBuck Weasel) to help explain concepts like gravitational pull, magnetism, and motion. His inclusion represents a whole missed opportunity—why use him as a vessel when his erroneous blubbering will only confuse younger audience members rather than educate them? It’s okay to have a plot that doesn’t make a lick of sense in a kids’ film, but actively championing it as plausible is absurd.
Ice Age: Collision Course is proof that the creative brain-trust of this franchise have not just exhausted their reserves, but the tank has been barren for quite some times, and even the lingering creative fumes couldn’t save this mess. When the audience begins rooting for the asteroid, that’s clear sign that it’s time to let this franchise die.
Photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Animation