Ice Age: Collision Course (2016)

Genres - Children's/Family, Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Comedy  |   Release Date - Jul 22, 2016 (USA)  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Tom Ciampoli

At this point, it feels like not even an actual asteroid flurry could end the Ice Age franchise, which returns with yet another installment featuring Manny the woolly mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger, Sid the Sloth, and Scrat the squirrel. Scrat's eternally panicked behavior seems to have set most of prehistory's major events in motion, and here, he unleashes a catastrophic meteor shower on Earth when his hunt for his beloved acorn leads him into outer space. This gives Manny (voice of Ray Romano) and his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) one more thing to worry about, as their only child Peaches (Keke Palmer) is preparing to leave home after marrying her fiancée, a goofy but kindhearted woolly mammoth named Julian (Adam DeVine).

Meanwhile, Diego (Denis Leary) and Shira (Jennifer Lopez) debate becoming parents, while Sid (John Leguizamo) laments the lack of romance in his life. But when the sky literally begins to fall, the group's perspective shifts and they attempt to seek refuge from this natural disaster. A scrappy and resourceful weasel named Buck (played with charismatic aplomb by Simon Pegg) suggests a better idea than simply waiting for the largest asteroid to crash into the planet: He believes there's a way to use a nearby volcano to alter its trajectory, thereby saving life as they know it. So this group of prehistoric pals embark on a journey to carry out their plan, unaware that a bloodthirsty Dromaeosaur (Nick Offerman) is hot on their trail in order to get revenge on Buck.

This chapter doesn't try to mess with the formula that has made Ice Age such a successful franchise, even if some of its characters have aged better than others. Buck has been a welcome injection of fresh energy since his introduction in the third entry (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs), but the once-goofy misadventures of Sid, the series' original comedic hero, have felt like shtick for some time now. In fact, his jokes in this film are upstaged by his cranky, wisecracking grandmother, played by comedian Wanda Sykes with a saucy enthusiasm that proves contagious. None of the characters or subplots in this movie disappoint on a consistent basis, but Ice Age: Collision Course feels uneven as a result of leaning too hard on some comedic crutches. For example, goofball opossums Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) serve as a sort of Greek chorus or Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-esque parallel to the main action, but the reality is that their antics and literal cheerleading routines are too juvenile to do these tropes justice.

Romano usually portrays emotionally stunted men with good intentions, and he does solid work here while playing off of DeVine's heart-on-his-sleeve character. And the introduction of one particular subplot, which arises after the crew's mission leads them to an idyllic community, brings up a stealthily poignant theme about being too comfortable with the status quo to embrace necessary changes. However, this film is so squarely aimed at younger audiences that it doesn't really investigate this idea, or provide much in the way of tongue-in-cheek jokes or subversive humor for those adults who may be forced to sit through the picture with their charges.

The flip side to that coin, of course, is that if a movie can keep large groups of hyperactive kids entertained and glued to their seats for 94 minutes, then it should be considered something of a success. Ice Age: Collision Course passes that test, as it offers its key demographic enough laughs and CGI eye candy to command their attention. It's unclear whether this franchise has enough momentum to crank out another sequel after this latest offering, but either way, this fun-loving lark shows no signs of quitting just yet.