Charles Solomon Reviews: “Ice Age Collision Course” – Animation Scoop

Charles Solomon Reviews: “Ice Age Collision Course”

Fourteen years ago (!), the original Ice Age premiered. It had clearly been made on a limited budget that forced the artists to use their imaginations. The designs were simplified but appealing; the textures were less elaborately rendered; the backgrounds were often reduced to little more than a white field. But the film felt fresh and appealing, so no one missed the extra details (although the humans looked like something out of a bad museum diorama).

The subsequent sequels have grown increasingly elaborate but lack the individuality in their look and feel. They’ve become more and more about less and less, and this fifth installment is the most about the least.

Collision Course follows the same basic plot as the prior installments: When the character discover their world is in danger, they take a trip. Manny (Ray Romano), the somewhat morose but sensible mammoth of first film, has been turned into a stereotypical sitcom boob father/husband. He forgets the date of his wedding anniversary to Ellie (Queen Latifa) and disapproves of Julian (Adam Devine), the mammoth his daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) is going to marry.

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Still chasing the acorn, Scrat lands aboard an abandoned flying saucer—who built the saucer and why they left it in the ice is one of many key plot elements that are never explained. The acorn activates the saucer’s engines, triggering a seemingly endless string of gags about Scrat screaming and being pummeled by various mechanical devices. The saucers tergiversations trigger a meteor storm that launches a giant asteroid at the Earth. Its impact threatens to wipe out the planet’s mammals, as an earlier one helped to exterminate the dinosaurs.

Buck (Simon Pegg), the one-eyed weasel who’s a spoof of Paul Hogan in the “Crocodile Dundee” films (30 years after the fact), finds an ancient tablet that explains everything. (Except who carved it: what civilization arose on Earth before the Ice Age?) The asteroid will strike in the same place as others due to some electro-magnetic attraction. The animals have to harness a combination of volcanic steam, static electricity, magnetism and crystals to force the asteroid off its course and save live on Earth.

Under Mike Thurmeler’s direction, the quest becomes a long, effortful slog. Eventually, Manny saves the day, but only with Julian’s help, precipitating some heavy-handed bonding. Perhaps inevitably after so many films, the supporting cast seems to be phoning in their familiar shtick. Crash (Sean William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck), the skater-dude possums, remain as obnoxious and unnecessary as ever. Diego (Dennis Leary) is still sardonic, but has been taken up with a female sabre-tooth cat. As Sid, John Leguizamo continues his delightful mangling of the English language as Sid, but he often plays second fiddle to his Granny (Wanda Sykes).

The slapstick Scrat gags, which should bring big laughs, fail to land. The character has always owed a lot to Wile E. Coyote, but Chuck Jones knew how build and layer the humor to increase its impact. Thurmeler launches a non-stop string of blows and shrieks that quickly wearies: It’s like sitting next someone in Starbuck’s who’s twitching from too many espresso shots.

At one point, the familiar cast stumbles into a yoga retreat led by Shangri-Llama (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who sports wild sheep’s horns for some reason. Although it was probably conceived years ago, this drawn-out sequence feels like rip-off of the yoga studio scene in Zootopia.

In the first film, the animators used Manny’s eyes, brows and the base of his trunk to create expressions and suggest his mouth movements in dialogue scenes, which worked surprisingly well. In Collision Course, Manny seems to be chewing his lines with human-looking teeth that don’t really fit in an elephant’s head. It looks awkward.

Although “franchise” has become the buzz word of American animation, let’s hope the artists Blue Sky realize this one has gone on too long, and that it’s time for the Ice Age cast to retire to their rightful places in the Paige Museum.

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen, and The Making of Peanuts Animation. Solomon's "The Art of Toy Story 3" will be published by Chronicle this spring.
Charles Solomon
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