Ice Age: Collision Course

Posted by Joel Copling on July 21, 2016

Well, here is a pleasant surprise. After four films pushed him to the background, "Ice Age: Collision Course" embraces the character who has always been the best part of this surprisingly long-running series. That, of course, would be Scrat, the manic squirrel voiced by Chris Wedge and obsessed with catching his beloved acorn. The film is the byproduct of a short film from November 2015 that essentially opens this fourth sequel and sets up the main thrust of its plot with very funny results. The extended joke, delivered by a certain astrophysicist, is that Scrat is the one responsible for the creation of the solar system. The planets were the billiard balls, the rings around four of them were the pockets, and the Great Red Spot in Jupiter was a result of another planet bouncing off of it.

It's a pretty amusing joke that screenwriters Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, and Yoni Brenner keep revisiting, and it's a smart decision. Every time the film returns to Scrat's attempt to keep his oak nut, which is often, the film is at its funniest and cleverest. Some set up is necessary here: Scrat has found the right place on which to place his nut (One expects him to worship it, as the place resembles an altar made of ice), when it is revealed that he has actually uncovered an ancient spacecraft. He's jetted off into space, and of course, obstacles keep him at an arm's reach from his miniature source of plant life (In a scene that had this viewer howling with laughter almost to the point of tears, the obstacle becomes a teleportation device that doesn't seem quite built for organic material to be transported).

We always, to the slightest degree, pity poor Scrat that he can't catch this inanimate object, and it's always been more interesting than the other primary characters in the franchise. The surtitle is the franchise title, too, though, so we are reintroduced to the main players. Married woolly mammoths Manny (voice of Ray Romano) and Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah) must contend with the thought that their daughter Peaches (voice of Keke Palmer) is soon to be wed to fellow mammoth Julian (voice of Adam Devine), and Manny in particular is leery of her beau for fatherly reasons. Ground sloth Sid (voice of John Leguizamo) has just been unceremoniously dumped just before proposing to his own intended, and as for saber tooth tiger Diego (voice of Denis Leary), well, he doesn't have anything to do but to be happy he's included.

Manny's family drama is just enough to add a bit of something extra to the proceedings, although it's predictable from the get-go how this all will play out. Perhaps "predictable" isn't the right word, however. Sometimes drama is more satisfying when it plays out exactly as everyone knows it will, and the setting of a film intended for children in the single digits is perhaps not the place to include some unsavory twist. It's the kind of easy conflict that matches well to the other conflict that arises: Scrat's acorn chase leads to an asteroid that will collide with the earth in precisely the place where all of the dinosaurs died millions of years ago. Our main trio, alongside Ellie, Peaches, Julian, Sid's grandmother (voice of an outrageously funny Wanda Sykes), one-eyed weasel and dino-hunter Buck (voice of Simon Pegg), and several other returning characters, must figure out how to divert the asteroid before an extinction-level event occurs.

This is far from an apocalyptic affair, though. There is little or no high drama in what the screenwriters, director Mike Thurmeier, and co-director Galen Tan Chu are going for. This is a good-natured family comedy, light on its feet and given a genuinely infectious rhythm. Distractions occur in the form of a family of dinosaurs that want to strike back at Buck's heroic ways, because such external conflict is unnecessary (proven by how the thread is dropped almost precisely when it means to resolve itself), and in an inexplicable scene featuring eternally youthful stragglers who have nested inside one of the meteors. Never we mind: Where it matters, "Ice Age: Collision Course" is a delightful surprise. The series began, then continued, as likably mediocre, and finally, as the fifth film releases, it's an entertainment worthy of Scrat and his acorn.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of Ray Romano (Manny), John Leguizamo (Sid), Queen Latifah (Ellie), Denis Leary (Diego), Chris Wedge (Scrat), Simon Pegg (Buck), Keke Palmer (Peaches), Adam Devine (Julian), Wanda Sykes (Granny), Jennifer Lopez (Shira), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Shangri Llama), Jessie J (Brooke), Seann William Scott (Crash), Josh Peck (Eddie), and Neil deGrasse Tyson (Neil deBuck Weasel).

Directed by Mike Thurmeier, co-directed by Galen Tan Chu, and written by Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, and Yoni Brenner.

Rated PG (mild rude humor, action/peril).

94 minutes.

Released on July 22, 2016.