Ice Age: Collision Course kicks off with Scrat accidentally activating an alien spacecraft buried underneath the ice. The prehistoric squirrel flies off into space, inadvertently sending a giant asteroid towards the Earth. Back on the planet, mammoth Manny (Ray Romano) is struggling with daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) growing up, particularly her relationship with the Julian (Adam Devine). But Manny is forced to put his discomfort aside as he and his friends attempt to find a way to keep the asteroid from destroying life on Earth.
This is the fifth installment in this series, which started as a story of three prehistoric animals coming together to help bring a human infant back to his tribe. Now, these animals are tasked with stopping an asteroid from hitting the planet. It’s quite a leap, to say the least, but it hardly even matters. It’s become apparent at this point that the filmmakers run out of Ice Age stories to tell a while back. This installment, more than any other, seems much more reliant on the easy recognition of pop culture references. Telling a story with these characters seem like an obligation more than anything else.
The central character arc for this children’s movie involves a parent learning to his daughter go. Another minor character arc involves a couple trying to figure out if they’d be good parents. These characters have already come a pretty long way, and the movie really struggles to put them into a context where they face problems that might actually be relatable to its target audience. But the movie trudges on, having them face these strange adult problems while dealing with an absurd, world-ending crisis. None of it connects.
It all feels shockingly empty. It doesn’t really feel like the characters are actually in any danger. For most of the movie, the characters are just sent off on a random direction, with no real plan for what they’re going to do when they get there. This is classic bad screenwriting. The film overcompensates with an excess of current references, the characters just prone to making jokes that rely heavily on a knowledge of pop culture. And then there’s the Scrat stuff, which at times seems to cross the thin line between slapstick and sadism. It gets weirdly gruesome at points, and every detour into a Scrat scene makes the thin narrative feel even thinner.
If nothing else, the movie looks pretty good. That’s a given with almost any of these major studio animated productions, but even with that caveat in mind, it would be folly not to acknowledge the magnificent application of technology on display. The voice work feels tired. Most of the regular cast seems to just be in this for the paycheck at this point. It is the newcomers that manage to bring some energy to the vocal performances. Adam Devine and Jessie J stand out for injecting some joy into the vocal work.
Ice Age: Collision Course exists solely because the franchise has continued to be profitable. It’s clear that there wasn’t any story that the filmmakers were dying to tell. The screenwriting feels so tired, the story assembled from stock plotlines, displaying a shortage of imagination and passion in the proceedings. I would venture that the filmmakers themselves are tired of working within this animated prison, that they’re looking for new stories to tell. This ice age has gone on for far too long. We’re all longing for the heat of the sun.