There’s a sense of irony in the fact that a series of films focusing on species destined for extinction refuses to die. Did the world need a fifth Ice Age movie? Of course not, but that’s never deterred any studio from a brazen cash-grab before. Apparently for cynical execs, the only adage truer than “a fool and his money are soon parted” might be “a parent will put up with almost anything to keep the kids quiet for an hour and a half.”
And, when I say “anything,” I mean one of the most insipid and uninspired kids’ movies this side of Norm of the North. Anyone who had to sit through that particular piece of garbage earlier this year understands this is not an accusation I make lightly. Like Norm, the latest Ice Age feels as though it should have gone straight to DVD, although the production values are significantly higher. It’s not the animation or even the direction that’s the problem here, it’s the terrible, terrible screenwriting. This film is single-handedly undermined by one of the laziest scripts I’ve come across in recent memory. How many sight gags involving butts and nipples can you wedge into a single movie before even toddlers find it tedious? Like some sort of sadistic sociological experiment, the people responsible for this film seem determined to find out. Aside from the profusion of scatological “humor” (for lack of a more accurate term), the story just doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. A cataclysmic meteor shower is set in motion by an acorn-obsessed squirrel who has somehow managed to pilot an abandoned flying saucer? Sure, why not. Those meteors are magnetically attracted to Earth by another that wiped out the dinosaurs, as revealed by a deus-ex-machina prophecy inexplicably carved in stone and readily decipherable by our protagonists? Who cares if it’s bad storytelling, it’s convenient! Throw in some familial conflict that would’ve already been tired and hackneyed if it had showed up 60 years ago as a Honeymooners rerun and you have the perfect recipe for a bad night at the movies.
The all-star cast (depending on how loosely you’re willing to define the term “star”) is predominantly passable, but the key players are clearly running on autopilot at this point. Denis Leary must be willing to do just about anything for money these days, and Ray Romano’s schtick is so grating and repetitive that it’s hard to remember why he was once the highest-paid television actor in history. Queen Latifah and Jennifer Lopez don’t have much to do, being relegated to stereotypically sanguine spousal roles. Nick Offerman falls flat in a rare misstep, but Simon Pegg and John Leguizamo at least seem to be enjoying themselves. With the principal cast reprising their roles from earlier films, there’s not much in the way of character development to speak of, and no one particularly compelling to root for. Then there’s the supporting cast of C-listers and tween celebrities, all of whom are pretty uniformly ineffective. I don’t know what a “Keke” or a “Jessie J” is — seemingly some sort of children’s TV personality and a pop star, respectively — but, after their performances in this film, I can only hope that I will forget their names as quickly as the rest of the world.
The single most perplexing aspect of this film may well be Neil deGrasse Tyson’s bizarre cameo in one of the most scientifically inaccurate movies ever made. Obviously I wasn’t expecting an astronomical documentary, but this thing makes Georges Méliès’ From the Earth to the Moon look positively rational by comparison. Why would a man who publicly shamed The Daily Show into changing its intro animation because the Earth was rotating in the wrong direction choose to appear in a film in which the entire solar system is accidentally knocked into place like a series of errant billiard balls? Some mysteries even science can’t explain. What requires no explanation, however, is the craven motivation behind the release of this atrocity. If your kids bully you into seeing this one, you have my deepest sympathy. Then again, it could provide a valuable teaching opportunity for a lesson in responsible moviegoing and how supporting bad films only leads to more bad films. Take them to see Raiders! instead. Rated PG for mild rude humor and some action/peril.
Now playing at Carolina Cinemark, Carmike 10, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher, Epic of Hendersonville.