“Ice Age: Collision Course,” the fifth installment in the 14-year-long saga of animated prehistoric animals, will, with any luck, also be the last. Lazy, scattershot and excruciatingly unfunny, the movie is a hazard to the very young, who might come away with the erroneous impression that movies don’t get any better than this.
We get it: It’s summertime and the kids need to be entertained. But take them to see “Finding Dory” a second – or even third – time. It’s no “Finding Nemo,” but it’s still a better use of time and money.
Why settle for a story that’s set into motion – yet again – by that irritating saber-toothed squirrel in search of an acorn? Yes, Scrat accidentally ends up in a UFO, pinballing around the cosmos. The good news – for the universe, not the viewer – is that all that bouncing around somehow leads to the formation of our galaxy. The bad news is that the activity sends a huge, destructive asteroid hurtling toward Earth.
Down on the Blue Planet, Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano) is fretting over losing his daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) to her betrothed, the stupid but sweet Julian (Adam Devine).
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Manny’s buddy, the lisping sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), has just had his heart broken, and saber-toothed tigers Diego and Shira (Dennis Leary and Jennifer Lopez) are lamenting that every young animal in the kingdom is terrified of them.
Of course, they’ve got a bigger problem to worry about: the imminent destruction of their planet.
To help with that conundrum, they have the crafty, one-eyed weasel Buck (Simon Pegg), who formulates a far-fetched plan involving magnetic space rocks. Nothing, however, can save them from the terrible dialogue and stale jokes.
The movie’s idea of hilarity is a pun on the word “duty.” Measured against that low bar, the film’s more inspired bits include a cameo by Neil deGrasse Tyson (playing scientist Neil deBuck Weasel); a cult leader, Shangri Llama (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who loves crystals and yoga; and hashtag jokes.
Don’t waste too much brain power on the fact that Twitter didn’t exist during the Paleolithic.
Screenwriters Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg and Yoni Brenner strain to jam as many characters into the story as possible, leaving the movie feeling both overstuffed and utterly superficial. A musical interlude is usually a dependable pick-me-up, but the one in “Ice Age” – set to Figaro’s aria from “The Barber of Seville” – feels slapdash. (Sample lyric: “You may be Jurassic, but I am fantastic.”)
If there’s a bright spot, it’s the animation, which conjures a colorful world called Geotopia, inside the fallen asteroid. There’s also a clever sequence that recreates a prophecy carved into a stone totem.
It isn’t enough, though. Since Pixar upped the animation game, children’s entertainment is now expected to delight grown-ups, too. That may seem like a tall order, but this franchise has done it before. It just feels like we haven’t seen it since the first Ice Age.
Rated PG. Contains mild rude humor and action peril.
Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.