The animators behind the “Ice Age” franchise probably could go on forever crafting entertaining new misadventures for Scrat the squirrel (Chris Wedge). The beleaguered prehistoric critter with the endless bad luck nabbing an acorn is the closest thing we’ve got these days to classic Looney Tunes. His comedic relentlessness makes us think of him as an ancient progenitor of Wile E. Coyote, before chronic disappointment turned their furry kind scheming and bitter.
Scrat is back in fine, funny form in “Ice Age: Collision Course.” He launches the series’ fifth installment by stumbling onto a glacierized flying saucer and setting off eye-catching galactic chaos, complete with wonders-of-the-cosmos narration by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Marvin the Martian’s got nothing on the suddenly spacefaring rodent.
Trouble is, there isn’t nearly enough in “Collision Course” that feels this inspired or energetic. Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), sabretooth Diego (Denis Leary), and their sprawling ensemble keep busy with rote emotional arcs and, more compellingly, stopping an impending asteroid strike triggered by Scrat’s bumbling. But the recurring cutaways to our hapless Scratstronaut leave us wondering if the filmmakers aren’t looking for ways to hitch “Ice Age” to some original concept they’d rather be working on. The feeling isn’t new — we were similarly struck by the series’ last entry, the pirate-themed “Continental Drift.”
Adam Devine (“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”) helps continue the franchise’s character pile-on as Julian, a dudespeaking mammoth engaged to Manny’s daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer). Mother of the bride Ellie (Queen Latifah) frets a little, while neurotic Manny frets a lot.
Too predictable? Relax, the action has already shifted underground to part three’s dino realm, reenlisting swashbuckling weasel Buck (Simon Pegg, still game), along with some colorfully rendered killer dodos on his trail. It’s a kick to realize that Nick Offerman and Max Greenfield are voicing a couple of the dino-birds, but the pair hardly get the material their team-up deserves.
The gang ultimately winds up in a crystalline Shangri-La that keeps its denizens (British pop star Jessie J, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, etc.) forever young — and that holds the key to stopping that deadly space rock. The riot of color here brings to mind what the makers of “Ice Age” delivered with “Rio,” which in turn reminds us that these animators certainly aren’t just one-trick talents. Could be time for them to show us some new ones.
ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE
Directed by Michael Thurmeier, Galen Tan Chu. Written by Michael Wilson, Michael Berg, Yoni Brenner; story by Aubrey Solomon. Starring Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Adam Devine. At Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs. 100 minutes. PG (mild rude humor and some action/peril).