By Michael Kaye
Ice Age: Collision Course (Review)
Let's face it, us film fans have gotten spoiled when it comes to animation. Anything that isn't Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli, or top tier Dreamworks is essentially written off as crap. And I'll admit it, I've felt this way for the longest time about Blue Sky Studios, which is just unfair. Sure, on the surface they seem like a bunch of corporate sell outs, but underneath that surface are three genuinely great films, the first Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who, and one of my all time favorites, last year's The Peanuts Movie. Yes, I know the Ice Age franchise has overstayed its welcome, but here we go one more time with the latest installment, Ice Age: Collision Course.
Here's the story. Set after the events of Continental Drift, Scrat's epic pursuit of his elusive acorn catapults him outside of Earth, where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the planet. To save themselves from peril, Manny, Sid, Diego, and the rest of the herd leave their home and embark on a quest full of thrills and spills, highs and lows, laughter and adventure while traveling to exotic new lands and encountering a host of colorful new characters.
As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed the first Ice Age. It came out at just the right time for me, and I quickly fell in love with all of the characters (or at least Scrat). Then the sequels happened, and the shine was starting to come off the apple. The lowest point the franchise hit was Continental Drift, with a miscast Peter Dinklage as the main antagonist. But with Collision Course, this is gonna sound shocking for some people, but I actually think it's the best film in the franchise since Dawn of the Dinosaurs. As soon as you've picked up your jaws off the floor, you can keep reading for my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the voice cast is kind of amazing. There are far too many characters to list everyone, so I'll just throw a nod to the central protagonists, Ray Romano's Manny, John Leguizamo's Sid and Dennis Leary's Diego. Of the dozens of recurring characters, my favorite from Dawn of the Dinosaurs has made his triumphant return, and that's Simon Pegg's Buck, who's three times crazier than his first appearance. Residing in his mind is Neil DeBuck Weasel, played of course by the great Neil DeGrass Tyson, who ended up stealing a good portion of the second act. Finally, some fresh blood within the franchise made a great first impression, including Adam DeVine as Peaches's fiancé Julian, and a family of Dromaeosaurs, played by Nick Offerman, Stephanie Beatriz and Max Greenfield.
One thing that has always improved throughout the franchise is the animation. As much as I love the original film, that animation really doesn't hold up well at all by today's standards. But as each sequel keeps making more money at the box office, the animation gets better each time. Something else that's cool just about Blue Sky Studios in general is how aware they seem to be of why this franchise still exists. They understand that it's nothing more than a studio mandate, so what better excuse is there to basically use these films as an excuse to stretch their animation legs. I mean, how else would you explain the increasingly ridiculous plots (which I'll get into later) that are often the direct result of Scrat's antics trying to get that stupid acorn?
Despite whatever I have to say later about the writing, every once in a while there's a joke that really sticks the landing. In fact, this might actually be the first time that the franchise attempts humor geared towards adults. Is it because Peaches is now grown up and getting married, that the situation has provided more comedic possibilities, or it that just the result of a really talented voice cast delivering the lines while sneaking in some improv? Either way, I'm happy with the results.
Finally, the music by John Debney was incredible, and will probably go completely overlooked by those who didn't like the movie at all. Seriously, upon looking at Debney's IMBD page, he's composed music for a lot of crap such as Inspector Gadget, Christmas with the Kranks, and Evan Almighty. But He's also composed scores for Iron Man 2, Sin City, The Jungle Book, and he was a frequent collaborator with the late Garry Marshall. Much like the animation, Ice Age seems to improve basically all of the technical aspects of the films, which helps when you have a bigger budget.
Now for the negatives, or really, just one negative. Unlike Norm of the North, which I had no problem tearing that wretched piece of shit a new one for putting Z-grade direct to video animation onto the big screen, I don't feel as comfortable doing the same thing to this movie. As I said before, not every animated movie needs to be Pixar level, sometimes it's perfectly okay to focus more on the laughs than on reducing me to an emotional puddle. That being said, you can try a little harder on the story.
The screenplay was written by Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, and Yoni Brenner, with story credit going to Aubrey Solomon. That's four writers involved in the storytelling, and yet the plot is kind of a mess. One thing I've noticed that really started to hurt this franchise is the constant addition of new characters, some of which are barely even important to the plot. Now on the one hand, I can forgive that since the casting director is a goddamn genius (for the most part), grabbing some of the best comedic actors to play even the smallest of roles. However, the more ancillary characters you add, the more screen time they take away from the main protagonists. There were moments where I completely forgot about Sid because so much time was devoted to Peaches and Julian, as well as Buck (who should really get his own spin off film btw).
The other problem I've noticed with the franchise is a lack of consistency. That shouldn't be too much of a surprise, seeing how Fox has demonstrated with the X-Men franchise that their philosophy on franchises is "continuity, schmontinuity!" This results in a whole bunch of rules constantly breaking throughout the films. Remember the humans from the first movie? Never to be seen again. I thought dinosaurs were extinct? Dawn of the Dinosaurs says otherwise. And in that film, weren't they not able to speak? Collision Course doesn't seem to care!
But despite all of that, I still relatively enjoyed watching Ice Age: Collision Course. The most frustrating thing about the Ice Age franchise that I've noticed over the years is how they somehow managed to get better AND worse at the same time. The major highlights for me this time were the return of Simon Pegg's Buck, Scrat's consistently hilarious antics and the score by John Debney. Something I find amusing is that this weekend, you actually get a choice of which Simon Pegg movie you'd like to see in theaters, between this and Star Trek Beyond.
Now I'd like to hear from you guys! Have you seen Ice Age: Collision Course, and if so what are your thoughts? Also, which animated films do you feel get overshadowed by the likes of Disney and Pixar? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where I take a look at David F. Sandberg's directorial debut, based on his horror short film Lights Out!