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 — woolly 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 on 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 on something as mundanely hetero-normative as a wedding feels wildly unimaginative.
Romano's Manny remains the heart of the group, but the writing and the chemistry among the characters is profoundly lacking. It's almost as if they were 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 popeyed sloths, as well as the high jinks 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.
The laser focus on something as innocuous as a mammoth wedding sends the story stakes in the wrong direction — away from the actual world-ending part of the tale, which you would assume would take precedence. All the apocalyptic stuff feels so very slapdash and silly, particularly a sojourn to Geodetopia, an opportunity to pillory yoga-practicing, crystal-loving hippies (much in the same way "Zootopia" already did this year).
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 would work much better as weekend background home entertainment, where the patchwork story and humdrum design can be easily looked over. This is one installment that didn't need to be made, and in a summer of fine animated fare, "Ice Age: Collision Course" is only for the die-hard fans and franchise completists.
'Ice Age: Collision Course'
MPAA rating: PG, for mild rude humor and some action/peril
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: In general release