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Review: ‘Ice Age: Collision Course’

ice_age_collision_course-300The fifth entry in an animated series that dates back to 2002, Ice Age: Collision Course tastes like a popsicle that’s been stuck in the back of the freezer too long.

Certainly it resembles the previous four films. The series has never been very ambitious, either visually or thematically, but silly humor and skilled artistic craftsmanship have made them sturdy, dependable vehicles for generally gentle rides into family-friendly territory.

The first film focused on the importance of friendship, while the succeeding films have shifted the emphasis to familial relationships. That continues to be the case with the newest installment, as woolly mammoth Manny (voiced by Ray Romano) and his wife Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah) must deal with the reality that their daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) is quite serious about pairing up with Julian (Adam Devine), a kind yet foolish sort of young animal. As Manny and Ellie battle with their emotions, they are also put to the test by an impending meteor strike, along with the rest of their ever-growing pack of animal friends.

Narratively speaking, Ice Age: Collision Course is not terribly interested in forward momentum. As part of Blue Sky Studios’ signature franchise, it doesn’t pay right now for the series to do anything more than tread water. That may change if worldwide financial returns ever wane — the previous installment earned more than $715 million — but until that happens, the series is bound to inch along at a crawl.

Like its predecessors, Ice Age: Collision Course is aimed primarily at young children, who are apt to be pleasantly distracted by the episodic nature of the movie. They probably won’t care that the main plot threads are ancient and exhausted, but their parents (and other adults) might.

The elements that once distinguished the series — its bright color palette, its juvenile-skewing antics — have grown dim and dusty, without anyone making an evident effort to freshen the formula. With the increasing number of animals in the cast, it’s also become more difficult for the filmmakers to come up with new things for them to do.

It’s not that any of the previous films came close to nightmarish villains but at least the “bad guys” had some bite. Over time, though, all the characters have become ever more sympathetic, and even the ones who lean toward villainy have become toothless.
That may be good news for parents and other adults concerned about the deleterious effects of morally bankrupt and nasty animals in animated movies. It’s a warning sign that the series is losing its appeal, however, for other adults who are simply fans of animation in all its forms.

Buyer beware!

The film opens in theaters throughout Dallas on Friday, July 22.

Review: ‘Joyful Noise’

Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in 'Joyful Noise'
Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in 'Joyful Noise'

Women usually get the shaft in Hollywood, so it’s refreshing to see that Todd Graff’s Joyful Noise presents its story from the perspective of strong female characters. A musical comedy, Joyful Noise is set in the modern-day small town of Pacashau, Georgia, where the residents enjoy multi-racial peace and harmony, despite harsh economic conditions that have forced the closure of many local businesses.

As the film gets underway, church choir director Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) unexpectedly dies during a performance, leaving a vacancy that the church decides to fill with Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah), the longtime assistant director. G.G. (Dolly Parton), Bernard’s widow, is none too pleased, since she coveted the position and is a longtime rival of Vi Rose.

Vi Rose is resistant to change, which frustrates her teenage daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer), who is a magnificent gospel singer with a burning desire to sing modern pop tunes. Trouble comes to town with the arrival of Randy (Jeremy Jordan), G.G.’s grandson, who’s been kicked out by his mother. He’s immediately attracted to Olivia and, what do you know, he too is a great vocalist with a burning desire to sing modern pop songs! How will they adapt to change? Is there any future for a relationship forged during such musically divisive times?

Joyful Noise is resolutely conservative, teaching respect for all authority figures, especially parents, and God, who is evidently OK with premarital sex for adults and profanity for all. It’s very much a religiously-infused film, with characters stopping to pray on a regular basis and invoking God when making decisions and questioning their paths in life. As noted, sex is OK for consenting adults of legal age; the teens in the film must be satisfied with kissing in public.

The story functions as a framework for the musical numbers, which are divided among the main characters in very equitable fashion — both Vi Rose and G.G. get to do solos, for example — with the highlights intended to rouse audiences. The movie played very well to its target audience at an advance screening, but is unlikely to convert any non-believers (i.e. folks who are not religiously-inclined gospel / pop music lovers).

What stuck with me, however, was the interracial love on display without comment. Randy is Caucasian and Olivia is African-American, and no one in the small Southern town cares about their racial differences. When an African-American teen challenges Randy, it’s not because of the color of his skin, but because his manhood has been called into question (he thinks). Neither does anyone make a big deal of the racial differences between at least two other couples; each has problems that have nothing to do with race.

— From my review at Twitch.

‘Joyful Noise’ opens wide across the Metroplex today.