NEW YORK (CNS) — Weakly constructed and inappropriate, in some respects, for its target audience, “Ice Age: Collision Course” (Fox) has little to recommend it.
This fifth installment of the animated franchise for children that dates back to 2002 also is tainted by a vaguely anti-religious undertone that seems to exalt science at the expense of faith.
Believing moviegoers will sense that ill-defined vibe from the start, since the narration over the opening scenes purports to tell the real story of how the universe came into existence. In fact, what follows merely shows us how Scrat, the acorn-obsessed squirrel whose dialogue-free antics have been one of the series’ assets, somehow wound up in outer space, where his frantic pursuit of his favourite food item caused various, humorously portrayed changes in our solar system.
Scrat’s chase also gets the plot rolling when he inadvertently sets a giant asteroid on a potentially cataclysmic collision course with the Earth. Down on terra firma, that spells trouble for all existing life forms, including Manny (voice of Ray Romano), the good-hearted but gloomy wooly mammoth who has featured in all the “Ice Age” films.
As an overprotective dad, Manny is already struggling to cope with his sunny daughter Peaches’ (voice of Keke Palmer) engagement to her boyfriend, Julian (voiced by Adam Devine). Despite the best efforts of his levelheaded wife, Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah), to foster good relations between them, Manny resents Julian and rebuffs his soon-to-be son-in-law’s displays of affection.
Such minor domestic discord is, of course, put in the shade once the cosmic threat becomes apparent. What to do to save the world? The unlikely answer involves a journey to a field of magnetic rocks that Manny and company hope can be used to divert the asteroid.
This implausible scheme is the brainchild of eccentric, British-accented weasel Buck (voice of Simon Pegg) who goes on to serve as the family’s not-always-reliable guide along their quest.
Directed by Michael Thurmeier and Galen Tan Chu, the scattershot proceedings also take in lonely sloth Sid’s (voice of John Leguizamo) search for love.
While the slapstick comedy around which the shaky story is built is obviously aimed at kids, some of the vocabulary and humour is unsuitable for them. And the problematic outlook on religion resurfaces when the travellers encounter Shangri Llama (voiced by Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a guru who is reputed to know everything but turns out to be no help at all.
Science celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson is also thrown into the mix and given an alter ego, Neil deBuck Weasel. Since Tyson identifies as an agnostic, and is on record as rejecting the idea of a benevolent God, his presence will not be reassuring to parents intent on passing on the faith to their youngsters.
The film contains occasional peril, mildly scatological and anatomical humour and a single crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
NEW YORK (CNS) — Fifty years after its debut on television, “Star Trek” bursts onto the big screen again in its 13th feature-film outing.
Overall, “Star Trek Beyond” (Paramount) is a rousing and rambunctious 3D adventure, directed at a furious pace by Justin Lin. That seems natural enough, given that Lin is perhaps best known for helming several of the films in the “Fast & Furious” franchise.
Here, with nary an automobile in sight, Lin embraces the universe as his canvas and makes the most of it. He stages thrilling scenes of galactic peril, including the wholesale destruction of the Starship Enterprise.
Fortunately, screenwriters Doug Jung and Simon Pegg (who plays Chief Engineer Scotty) allow viewers to pause and catch their breath, interspersing quieter scenes of the crew members bonding for character development.
Fatigue and malaise have struck the denizens of the Enterprise at the midpoint of their five-year mission. The captain, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), is jaded and restless. The romance between Cmdr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) has waned. Ship’s doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) is crankier than ever.
In a twist that has made headlines, helmsman Sulu (John Cho) is revealed to be gay. In a brief scene, he’s shown with a male partner and young daughter. The casualness with which this situation is treated is itself part of an underlying agenda.
The Enterprise docks at a floating metropolis called Yorktown for a refit. There Kirk receives his next mission: A distress call in an uncharted part of the galaxy — ergo, “beyond” — must be answered.
It’s a trap, of course, and before you can say, “Beam me up, Scotty,” the ship is destroyed and the crew taken hostage on a hostile planet.
A reptilian megalomaniac named Krall (Idris Elba) is to blame. He seeks the wholesale destruction of humanity (of course) through use of the ultimate weapon (what else?).
Krall’s motives and true identity are revealed in due course. In the meantime, it’s up to Kirk to rally his troops and stage a counterattack against overwhelming odds.
“We will do what we have always done,” says Spock. “We will find hope in the impossible.”
Luckily there’s also a friendly zebra-striped alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) waiting in the wings with a bag of tricks. When she’s not too busy smacking down the baddies, Jaylah likes to fix things and make eyes at Scotty.
“Star Trek Beyond Comprehension” might be a better title for a film so crammed with technical jargon and nostalgic references that only diehard Trekkies will fully understand. Even for those outside that category, however, this could normally be endorsed as a fun summer popcorn movie, though its action is too intense for kids.
The film contains considerable, mostly bloodless violence, including torture, a benign view of homosexual acts and a fleeting sexual reference. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
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Copyright (c) 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops