Finding love in a hopeless franchise.
The Ice Age franchise has been around since the dawn of time… or at least it feels like it. It’s been nearly fifteen years since the first film — a righteous piece of animation — made waves and spawned a series of sequels with diminishing returns. The latest is Collision Course and while it has heart, it’s hard to find a reason to recommend it over the other animated films of the summer.
Manny (Ray Romano) is well into fatherhood now, with his daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) on the verge of matrimony to the bumbling, but lovable Julian (Adam Devine). Julian is one of the few new characters who gets a satisfying arc, one of the many bland caricatures that litter the film, but he ends up being quite alright. Meanwhile, in the midst of an anniversary celebration, a meteor shower hits and the Ice Age family and friends, along with some assistance from Simon Pegg’s Buck, must stop the end of the… well, the ice age.
The movie was written and directed by dads. This is evident from the overarching top down to the “dad jokes” that are omnipresent in the film and often try to play themselves off as relevant. They aren’t and for as often as they are tired, they also aren’t super funny. It’s a bummer that the connective tissue is so unexciting, because Manny’s struggles coexist effectively. The loss of his daughter as entirely his own feels like the end of the world, while he and the gang deal with the actual end of the world. It’s cleverly constructed, which makes it at least fairly enjoyable.
John Leguizamo’s Sid plays his typical comic relief, while Denis Leary’s Diego takes a backseat along with a majority of the recurring characters. The newcomers include a villainous Dakotaraptor (Nick Offerman) and his family, as well as Jesse Tyler Fergusson’s Shangri Llama. The latter turns up in the third act, running a clan of ageless animals who hold the solution to saving the Earth. He ends up being as unlikeable and annoying as the first moment we meet him, which is no fault of Fergusson, but contributes to the third act drag.
Scrat is back. The slapstick squirrel that serves as the franchises greatest mascot plays quite the role in Collision Course, his actions causing the whole catastrophe. These sequences are the funniest — and most disturbingly violent— of the film, taking a handful of sci-fi tropes and turning them into more ways to separate this squirrel from his beloved acorn. Teleporters and gravity both play roles in this shockingly succinct segment.
The jokes fall flat. The new characters don’t make a huge impression. Yet somehow, the moral dilemma shines through. Still, that’s not a great formula for an animated movie aimed at families. Ultimately, the problem with Ice Age: Collision Course is that the kids won’t be laughing enough and the adults will find it too simple. It’s inoffensive in almost every way, but Collision Course adds little to a franchise that is all but extinct.
Ice Age: Collision Course is in theaters on July 22.