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 favorite 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 humor is unsuitable for them. And the problematic outlook on religion resurfaces when the travelers 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 humor 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.


Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.