‘Ice Age: Collision Course’: Series continues meteoric descent

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His pursuit of an acorn takes Scrat into space in the new “Ice Age.” | 20TH CENTURY FOX

There’s a meteor headed for Earth and the wisecracking mammals of the “Ice Age” franchise in the series’ fifth installment. It doesn’t take long into “Ice Age: Collision Course” for you to begin rooting for that meteor.

There’s been no shortage of high-quality, animated, talking-animal movies this year. “Zootopia,” “The Jungle Book,” “Finding Dory” and “The Secret Life of Pets” all did well with critics and, for now, are on 2016’s top 10 list for domestic box-office grosses. “Ice Age” is an embarrassment in comparison, a hot mess of random references, clashing styles and recycled gags babbling at high speed like a kid on a sugar rush.

Setting “Collision Course” into motion is Scrat, the blessedly wordless, saber-toothed squirrel with an insatiable craving for acorns. His dogged pursuit of one lands him aboard a spacecraft, where he unwittingly sends a meteor hurtling for Earth, where the rest of the cast is engaged in petty squabbling and dull domestic dramas.

Manny the woolly mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) is struggling to accept the impending marriage of his daughter to her goofy but well-meaning fiance Julian (Adam Devine). He’s also in trouble with his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) for forgetting their wedding anniversary. Saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and his girl Shira (Jennifer Lopez) are debating having a baby. Sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) has just been dumped and is bemoaning his single status. There are no interesting conflicts here, just boilerplate “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” sitcom quarrels — totally relatable catnip for child audiences.

Their petty problems are interrupted by the sudden appearance of a meteor in the sky, sending the chatty clan on a quest with singing weasel Buck (Simon Pegg) to stop the meteor from plummeting into the planet and ending all life.

As empty as the film is plot-wise, it’s overstuffed with characters — romantic interests, opossums, a yoga llama, even a weasel Neil deGrasse Tyson, their dialogue all braying, empty noise. There’s no joke too low or obvious; butts, nipples and poop feature in so many punch lines, it’s a wonder there are no crotch jokes (unless I missed them rolling my eyes). Scrat’s space adventure, witless as it is, feels like a reprieve from idiocy with its dialogue-free sight gags and slapstick.

It’s a shame this is a kid’s movie and you know the main characters are destined to succeed. It wouldn’t make the movie good, but at least a meteor strike would preclude the possibility of a sixth “Ice Age” film.

20th Century Foxpresents a film directed byMichael Thurmeier,co-directed byGalen Tan Chu and written byMichael Wilson, Michael Berg and Yoni Brenner. Running time: 94minutes. Rated PG(for mild rude humor and some action/peril). Opens Friday at local theaters.

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