The Ice Age series of films is almost as old as the CGI movie scene after it took off. The fifth entry in the series is called Ice Age: Collision Course and it hits Swiss cinemas in a few days. We’ve seen it. Squirrels and dick jokes. Seriously.
First, I have to mention the way I got to see the movie. Here in Switzerland a big Sunday newspaper hosts Sunday morning pre-premieres of family movies every now and then. So this wasn’t exclusive press screening, but I and Silvia had the amazing advantage to see the target audience as well as the movie. The insight we gained during this was quite impressive.
So what’s this movie about: There’s a meteorite headed for Earth. It will destroy all life. It’s up to our merry band of Ice Age characters and their female counterparts to find a way to save the Earth. They’re also joined by the incredibly resourceful weasel Buck (Simon Pegg) whose general insanity has worsened over the course of the last movies and has been dialed up to 11. He brings the main antagonists of the film: A family of Dakotaraptors led by Gavin (Nick Offerman) who are sick of Buck who foils their plans to eat eggs all the time.
The movie is very obviously aimed at children. Because as far as story goes, the movie doesn’t even try to appeal to an older audience. Which makes one of the points I mention later all the more confusing. The movie opens with Scrat (Chris Wedge) who – in his eternal pursuit of the one nut – manages to find a UFO and fly into outer space. Here, at the latest, adult viewers who have been there and in an impressionable age when the first Ice Age movie hit in 2002 know that Collision Course has little to nothing in common with the first part of the series. During his stint in outer space he manages to catapult a large meteorite towards Earth. It will hit just in time for some prophecy of a meteor hitting to be fulfilled.
During all this, there was a little girl behind me who was obviously quite confused at Scrat’s antics. She would talk to the screen, Scrat to be specific, and she would prefix her statements with «But, Squirrel,…» followed by advice or questions targeted at Scrat. She was obviously quite engaged with the movie and she kept it up during maybe the first third of the movie. But then she stopped, most likely because the movie sped up a bit. It started off as a very fast-paced movie, but then decided to just go full pedal to the metal after the first third. Nothing was lingered on, joke chased after joke and there was no time to think about anything we’ve seen.
You see, jokes – regardless of who they’re aimed at – depend not only on the punchline but also on timing. It’s this that I find is the most off with this. Because the movie balances physical comedy and spoken comedy, there’s a whole lot of comedy to be crammed into the film. Therefore, the movie occasionally fails at leaving the audience space to laugh. If you want to know more about timing of jokes, check out the video.
The jokes in this movie are not unfunny. Some are anachronisms as the characters talk about profile pictures and Hashtags, but I would think that these jokes would be aimed at an older audience as I’m not sure how aware children of around six years of age are of social media as most social networks only permit signing up after the age of 13.
However, what hits home was the slapstick. The movies heavily depend on physical humour. Nobody is safe from that. King of slapstick is obviously Scrat but also Sid (John Leguizamo) and pretty much everyone else has their scene where they get hit in the face by something. Laughter ensues. Sure, the slapstick can be seen coming a mile away, but occasionally, even the most cynical movie critic has to laugh. It’s the slapstick that gets everyone because the spoken comedy usually falls flat due to the insane speed of the movie.
What is flat-out confusing is the amount of penis, faeces and sex jokes that are in the movie. And that’s not just limited to hints in the spoken comedy parts of the film. Sloth Sid gets his nipples lit up, Shangri Llama (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) regularly sticks his head up his butt and Scrat is anally penetrated by his nut. And that’s not even all of it. Oddly enough, there was surprising little laughter from the kids in the audience during these scenes.
In general, the children were surprisingly quiet during the film. I am not sure why that is. Maybe the movie is too fast-paced, maybe the jokes didn’t quite fire right, maybe the movie didn’t have enough plot, because the story of saving the Earth has to be crammed into a number of slapstick vignettes. The whole plot about parents letting go of their children is even worse off. The emotional gravitas that this plotline wants to convey is completely lost.
Because the plot is so thin, it’s hard to actually care about the movie’s goings-on or the characters in it. Sid et al have lost a lot of their charm, which might be because the cast has grown from three characters to ten characters viewers should care about. When they save the Earth in the end, nobody cares. No cheers, no laughter, just some kind of silent acknowledgement.
Whereas I think that the story is there to compliment the slapstick, Silvia suspects that it was built around Scrat’s adventure in outer space. Either way, it’s obvious that the film did not start off as a story to be told but a joke that ended up being supplemented by a story.
Where does that leave us? Ice Age: Collision Course is a good movie for children who can comprehend things really quickly and parents that are not offended by their children being exposed to sex jokes.
Personally, I hope that there will be a next one that has a smaller cast and more time to breathe. However, sadly, this is announced to be the last movie in the series. Ice Age, I will miss you.
Ice Age: Collision Course opens in Swiss cinemas on June 30th, 2016.