It might not be a popular critical view, but I’ve always quite enjoyed the Ice Age films. I can’t work out if their refusal to abide by natural laws of logic is arrogance, convenience or sheer chutzpah. But I like the fact that they ignore it nonetheless, whilst preserving the internal logic of the films themselves. Dinosaurs in the ice age? Yeah, we can do that. Let’s just chuck in a quick line to explain it and move on. They got a whole third film out of that idea.
For film five, which follows the chucklesome Ice Age: Continental Drift, the series decides to channel Michael Bay’s Armageddon a little bit, at one stage bringing in Trevor Rabin’s thumping score for a key sequence.
As per normal, we get the peerless Scrat the squirrel, and his fixation on grabbing an elusive acorn, to kick the film off. In turn, though, he ignites the plot of the movie this time. As if the filmmakers watched the insanity of the recent Spongebob: Sponge Out Of Water film, the setup here sees a giant meteor heading to earth, as a consequence of Scrat’s desperate acorn hunt. Cut to the surface, and the usual suspects are back, led by Manny – voiced by Ray Romano – and Sid (John Leguizamo). As well as the incoming extinction event, they’re also dealing with a plot ripped from any television channel in the world, as a protective father doesn’t want his daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer) to leave home.
That narrative thread is as yawnsome and predictable as it sounds, which is why it sometimes feels as though the film forgets about it, and instead opts to noodle around with the ensemble of characters. They throw in a return appearance for Simon Pegg’s one-eyed weasel Buck (who missed the last film), and spend as much time as they can get away with in the midst of action sequences and generally pissing around.
Fewer jokes hit this time around, though, and even at 94 minutes, Ice Age: Collision Course does begin to outstay its welcome. And yet: it’s fun. Often really good fun. I found myself laughing quite a few times, enjoying its knowing nods to other movies without it having to make a big thing of its references (see: The Secret Life Of Pets). Plus, I think these characters, as obvious as they are, are still good value.
Towering above them all, though, remains Scrat. I admire Blue Sky Studios – the company behind the Ice Age movies – for never overplaying their hand with arguably their best creation. There’s no spin-off movie here (although you can bet it’s been talked about), and instead, every time an Ice Age film starts to flag, it’s a case of call the squirrel to get us back on board. It’s a flawless tactic, as the ensuing sketches here channel the finest qualities of Looney Tunes, and Chuck Jones. I dearly hope the creature never finds his acorns, as catching up with him every three years to see him fail to grab another one is tremendously good fun.
Mind you, I do think this Ice Age is a step down from the last one. I’d probably place it third out of the five, but it’s still reliably entertaining, if only showing real glimpses of brilliance in those brief, squirrel-infested sequences. I’m all up for Ice Age 6 in a few years’ time, though.
Ice Age: Collision Course is in UK cinemas from July 15th.
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