FILM REVIEW – ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE. With the voices of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Wanda Sykes, Simon Pegg. Written by Michael J. Wilson and Michael Berg and Yoni Brenner. Directed by Mike Thurmeier, Galen T. Chu. Rated PG for mild rude humor and some action/peril. 94 minutes.
Like the proverbial bad penny, the mammals of the animated “Ice Age” series keep turning up because while the films are forgettable, they keep the children amused. In the latest installment ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE, Skrat–the hapless squirrel forever losing his precious acorn–finds a space ship buried in the ice and finds himself establishing the solar system.
It’s not all that different from the last film (2012’s “Ice Age: Continental Drift”) where he was responsible for separating Earth’s continents. Naturally our heroes are in peril again and need to figure out what to do. For those coming in late, or with short memories, they are Manny the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo). Manny and Diego are accompanied by the mates they acquired in previous films, Ellie the mammoth (Queen Latifah) and Shira the tiger (Jennifer Lopez). Poor Sid is still single, but takes care of his irasicible Granny (Wanda Sykes).
Manny and Ellie’s daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) is now grown up, and wants to marry Julian (Adam Devine), although Manny has his doubts. This is one of several subplots that keep things moving while a meteor–set in motion by Skrat–is headed towards Earth and threatening to wipe them out. This is an excuse for the return of Buck (Simon Pegg), the manic one-eyed weasel first introduced in “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (2009), who has a solution involving a volcano.
If none of this makes much sense, it’s okay. In spite of the characters using 21st century slang and the scatalogical “humor,” somehow this one rises slightly above previous offerings. Whether it’s Buck channelling Bugs Bunny with his own rendition of “Figaro” or Granny finding the fountain of youth inside a meteor, there’s an attempt at some wit and creativity that was lacking in previous installments. Perhaps most bizarre is a cameo by a character identified as Neil deBuck Weasel who “explains” some of the happenings in space. If the voice and look of the character seems familiar, it’s because they actually got Neil deGrasse Tyson–our great contemporary public educator on science–to voice the character.
Indeed, for the first time there’s enough humor for the adults to make it bearable enough to sit through with the kids. The will no doubt be enchanted by such repartee as two characters announcing they’re “reporting for duty” and then laughing because it sounds like “doody.” (Ask your five-year-old. This is sophisticated material for the toilet-trained set.)
In a year of some great American animation–with more to come–“Ice Age: Collission Course,” at best, serves as a palate cleanser. Given the low expectations for the series, that this actually shows signs of improvement demonstrates that anything is possible.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.