CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – Tragedies have a way of changing how we view life.
When things are going great, we take life for granted – our family, our health, our finances. But when something truly bad happens, we often get a whole new perspective on life, learning to appreciate what's truly important.
Apparently, that's how it was during the last ice age, too – at least in animated cartoons.
Ice Age: Collision Course (PG) opens this weekend, following our favorite mammoth family as they prepare for a wedding – that of Julian (Adam DeVine) and Peaches (Keke Palmer), the daughter of Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah). But there's a problem: Manny doesn't care at all for his future son-in-law, and when Julian and Peaches announce they're moving out of town upon marrying, the divide grows even deeper.
Things begin to change, though, when it's discovered that an asteroid is hurtling toward earth, forcing everyone – including Sid the sloth and Diego the saber tooth tiger – to work together and find a solution. Buck, the one-eyed weasel, thinks he has a plan ... but will it work?
This is the fifth installment in the Ice Age series of films, which have been wildly popular among families with young children since the first one debuted in 2002. The previous four rank in the Top 55 animated films of all time, each grossing at least $160 million.
Is the new one OK for kids? Let's take a look.
Ice Age: Collision Course is funny, although it's far from the most humorous one in the series or even among the funniest animated films this year. My young son watched it with me and laughed quite a bit, and there indeed is plenty of good, clean humor.
The film upholds the love and tight bond within the traditional family, showing Manny and Ellie as very involved with their daughter. We watch Manny and Peaches play ice hockey, and then we see Ellie give her daughter tips on childrearing (the latter a moment when she was trying to get Peaches to see she couldn't raise a child without family support). In the end, Manny and Ellie come around to where they want Peaches to get married, even if she moves away. And Manny and Julian become great friends.
The latest Ice Age does not have any coarse language, but there are some scatological jokes and humor that some parents might find offensive. The film's two opossums cheer during the hockey match, bending over and showing their behinds while shouting "you stink!" Sid apologizes to a girl for giving her a bikini made from poison ivy. Later, Sid is burned during an explosion and his nipples glow. Buck dresses up like a girl and briefly prances while walking. There's a joke about a "turd" looking like a rock and another joke about a costume making a girl look "trashy." A grandmother sloth jokes in the movie's final moments she's going to play "naked bingo." Sid says, "My nose is dangerously close to my butt."
Some families also might find offensive the movie's interaction with yoga and spiritual matters. Buck and the gang find an old asteroid that is filled with magic-power crystals. The animals in the asteroid are led by the Shangri Llama, who supposedly is 400 years old. "He sees all and knows all," we are told. He is the "master of meditation." He leads Manny and the others in yoga and they are told to do a downward dog.
We hear an astronomer tell us the universe is billions and billions of years old, and he wonders how it all began. (It's played for laughs, with Scrat the squirrel messing things up.)
Finally, it's worth considering: How many more Ice Ages are Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox going to make? The first few were incredibly creative, but at No. 5, the story seems to be getting old.
Lessons for Families
Manny gives us both good and bad lessons – for parents and children.
For parents, he shows us how not to treat a future son-in-law (or daughter-in-law). At one point he even blasts a hockey puck at Julian's head. For kids, this "negative" lesson easily can translate to family members and friends.
But shortly after Manny learns about the asteroid, his perspective changes. After all, he thinks he and his entire family are going to die. He becomes introspective. Here's two questions to discuss: Why does our perspective on life improve after a tragedy? And how can we maintain that perspective all the time?
There's a lesson on life changes, as seen in the wedding and the impact it had. "Change isn't easy, but it is a part of life," one animal says.
There also are subtle messages on teamwork and perseverance.
The Verdict: OK for Small Kids?
There is very little – if anything – that would scare small children in Ice Age: Collision Course. If you don't mind some scatological humor and the yoga scene, then this one is likely OK for young children.
Entertainment rating: 3 Family-friendly rating: 4
Language: butt (5), dummy (2), stupid (4), dooty (1), turd (1).
Sexuality. None. Some of the animals kiss very briefly. We see Sid's nipples light up after an explosion.
Violence: Minimal to none.