By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
A thaw is coming for the Ice Age franchise. Interest is melting and if it somehow manages to cling on like The Land Before Time series (now with 14 movies) then maybe another film or two can be chipped out. Whatever the outcome, this fifth outing offers nothing really new to the plate. It’s the same outline. Manny (Ray Romano) is a Mammoth making a life for himself. He once thought he was the last of his species, but in the course of several films, he discovers he is not alone, and the cold wasteland is not as lonely now that he’s paired with a love of his life — and has an extended family. Sid (John Leguizamo) is a sloth and Deigo (Denis Leary) is a saber-tooth tiger who keeps life interesting. Through the course of the first three films, these three have formed a bond where they respectively look out for each other.
Then, there’s the saber-toothed squirrel Scrat (Chris Wedge). He’s an enigma in the series, hardly ever interacting with the protagonists, and all he does is provide hilarious slapstick antics of his love for the acorn. He’s trying to find the best spot to store it, but never has any luck. The humour is starting to pale, and they are not as charming as his earlier attempts. The big reason is because he had to know the lay of the land. To send him to space has to be the worst idea ever. If the Minions, Scrat and Penguins were to compete for the position of number one, Scrat is slipping to bottom place.
The film begins with this critter discovering a UFO. The short film, Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe, is the opening act and because of this rodent, Earth is doomed. Back on terra firma, nobody is even aware of the extinction level event until Buck (Simon Pegg), a weasel tells them. As for how he manages to figure it out requires a stretch of the imagination and guessing that the species that lived before the Ice Age left behind a message in a bottle.
I’m not sure if aliens will invade this universe in the future, but given that Scrat is freewheeling out in space, perhaps they will be forced to investigate his origins. As for what they can offer, perhaps they will save the Mammoth species from total extinction by ferrying them away to Pluto. This movie felt very detached and far away from the originals. It also felt too busy with its extended bunch of supporting characters to keep track of.
Although the tale was very Flinstones-like, perhaps the writers were looking to this other prehistoric world for inspiration. There’s a good tale to be told where Manny shows his reluctance to let his little girl, Peaches (Keke Palmer), grow up and leave the herd but this plot is as old as many a studio product. Nothing new is developed when Julian (Adam Devine) figures out how to bond with Mannie. Although the film is not boring in the least, it lacks the fun the first film had.
Maybe it’s time to bring back the humans to be the Deux et Machina to the stories still to come. They, after all, are the true survivors of this epoch of time, and maybe they can tame the mammoth so that it survives the annals of time.
2½ Acorns out of 5