Come back, Euro 2016! It may have been a tepid contest, the worst in footballing memory – but it was something to do, we got used to its near-daily tedium, and it hurts to go from the 15th European Championship to the fifth Ice Age movie; even if, unexpectedly, it turns out to be the best Ice Age movie since the first one 14 years ago. Anyway, in honour of the late un-lamented tournament – and because, let’s face it, there’s only so much one can say about a kids’ cartoon franchise – we present this review of Ice Age: Collision Course in the style of a match report, ranking each ‘player’ out of 10:
SID, 4: What happened to Sid the sloth? He used to be the lynchpin of this Ice Age team, but he’s just not getting the service anymore. He disappears for long stretches – not exactly a tragedy, given his puerile jokes and the annoyingly moist lisp he has in the Greek version – though he does make repeated reference to the fact that he’s single, underlining the film’s emphatic ‘family’ Message. Alas, the sub-plot about his attempts to find a mate (Female sloth, giving him the brush-off: “We went on one date, and it lasted 11 minutes!”; Sid: “It felt like 20!”) remains a sub-plot.
BUCK, 8: Buck the piratical weasel (introduced in Ice Age 3) is the team’s Cristiano Ronaldo, not just an asset but a free spirit, roaming wherever the spirit takes him. He picks up the slack from Sid in the ‘manic’ department – much of the franchise’s humour depends on placing a manic character next to a staid character – but is zanier and less childish, typifying what makes Collision Course an improvement on its predecessors: seeing that the talking-animal prehistoric template was getting stale, the writers have ranged far and wide, taking in everything from an alien spaceship to a Shangri-La decked out in flowers and unicorns.
Buck is a swashbuckler, first seen rescuing a triceratops egg from marauding dinosaurs while sipping a mystery drink from a coconut shell and humming The Barber of Seville. That kind of elaborate set-piece is par for the course in cartoons (animators don’t need to worry about special effects) – but the film also goes in for mad flights of fancy and spoofy verbal humour. There are scenes inside Buck’s head, where an astrophysicist tag-teams with an Athenian philosopher; there are breaks for a fashion show and a parody of The Ten Commandments. The bit where oblivious Granny speaks an irrelevant line in mid-pandemonium and the other characters (fleeing a meteorite) shout “Faster! Faster!” – so Granny repeats her irrelevant line, only faster – might’ve come from the ZAZ team of Airplane! fame.
MANNY, 5: Manny the mammoth is the team’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, once a stalwart, now slow and ponderous – though Manny never had Schweinsteiger’s youthful authority, his sitcom-parent gags seemingly aimed at reluctant chaperones more than kids. His daughter’s all grown up now, about to get married, and Manny is predictably torn about losing his “little girl” – which leads us to something else, the obsession with parenting in this movie (Ice Age is a relatively old-fashioned franchise; it doesn’t even have a female lead, having started in the early 00s before assertive women became de rigueur in cartoons). Manny gets the main parental sub-plot – but there’s also a dinosaur family with a bad dad, and even Buck gets a pumpkin which he (inexplicably) fusses over like a baby. Even Diego and his mate get a loco-parentis moment at the very end. Speaking of which…
DIEGO, 2: Overpaid and underperforming, Diego the sabre-toothed tiger barely appears in Collision Course. The sole Diego joke – not a very funny one – is that he and Mrs. Diego, with their vampire-like fangs, scare people away when they just want to be friends. You know those players who seem to do nothing for 89 minutes, then come up with a flash of genius? That’s Diego, only without the genius.
SCRAT, 10: Even Scrat is a kind of parent, obsessing over his acorn – but that’s where the rodent’s resemblance to his fellow team members ends. Scrat has always been the wild card, rescuing Ice Age from blandness with his Tex Avery slapstick – but Collision Course takes it a step further, physically separating him from the action by launching him into outer space. After a prologue where he falls down a crevasse (in pursuit of the acorn, natch) and activates a spaceship frozen in the ice, he spends the whole film up in the heavens, falling foul of the ship’s gravity – he plummets to the floor, then his lower jaw drops, then his tongue, then his teeth – teleporting with the acorn and blending together like Seth Brundle in The Fly, but also inadvertently creating the Solar System, putting the spot on Jupiter and the rings around Saturn. In short, Scrat is God in this film – but a sweetly incompetent God, setting the plot in motion without even meaning to, blundering prehistory into being while in pursuit of his acorn-shaped focus. Gareth Bale? Don’t make me laugh…