Fourteen years after the first “Ice Age” animated film was a hit, the fifth installment in the franchise, “Ice Age: Collision Course,” rolls into theaters. Is it inevitable? Yes, 2012’s “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” was the highest grossing animated film that year. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. “Collision Course” is simply a perfunctory, watered-down entry in the series that feels like it should have been released on home video.
In this world of ancient animals — wooly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, flying dino-birds — facing apocalyptic, era-shifting, asteroid-borne problems, it feels profoundly odd that the emotional stakes of the film are centered around the wedding of Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie’s (Queen Latifah) daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer). Not to get too nitpicky about a fantastical film for children where a group of animals blow up a bunch of crystals in a volcano to set an asteroid off course, but the concept of marriage is decidedly anachronistic here. Also, they’re animals. When anything’s possible, centering a story around something as mundanely heteronormative as a wedding feels wildly unimaginative.
Romano’s Manny remains the heart of the group, but the chemistry and the writing between the characters is profoundly lacking. It’s almost as if they seem to be on separate, equally underdeveloped story lines. The most time is given to Manny’s issues with his immature future son-in-law, Julian (Adam DeVine), who plans to move away with Peaches after their wedding, in a sort of “Father of the Bride”-style story line. The other characters are granted tossed-off story scraps as they are led on a hunt for magnetic crystals by the swashbuckling Buck (Simon Pegg).
There’s an oddly grotesque style to some of the character design, including the pop-eyed sloths, as well as the hijinks of the single-minded and physically elastic squirrel Scrat. In chasing an acorn, Scrat ends up on a spaceship that sets off the whole asteroid debacle. There’s a certain amount of visual comedy fun to be had with simpleton Scrat, but his adventures in space take an extreme physical toll on the rodent.
Nothing comes together in “Ice Age: Collision Course,” which feels like the franchise grinding to a disappointing halt. Despite all the star power involved, the voice acting performances don’t inspire, the visuals are basic, and in 3-D, dark and dim. This is one installment that didn’t need to be made.
Voices: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Adam DeVine, Max Greefield, Nick Offerman, Keke Palmer, Queen Latifah.
Directors: Mike Thurmeier, Galen T. Chu.
Screenwriters: Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, Yoni Brenner.
A 20th Century Fox release. Running time: 94 minutes. Mild rude humor. Playing at area theaters.