ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (U) 94 mins. Featuring the voices of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah and Jennifer Lopez

THE creation of the universe wasn't the result of a Big Bang, divine intervention or some other scientific miracle.

It was the consequence of "something much dumber" according to the plodding fifth chapter of the computer-animated saga co-directed by Mike Thurmeier and Galen T Chu.

Ice Age: Collision Course posits that Scrat the calamitous squirrel was the unwitting catalyst for the solar system as we know it, setting off a chain of cosmological events in his relentless pursuit of a tasty acorn.

If the presence of a rodent at the controls of a flying saucer in the Paleolithic age seems a tad random, that's indicative of a script that thaws out plot strands and characters from earlier instalments and forlornly hopes for the best.

The film opens with Scrat inadvertently propelling a giant space rock towards the third rock from the sun.

Back on terra firma, Manny the woolly mammoth (Ray Romano) has forgotten about his wedding anniversary and pretends fireworks in the sky - actually meteorite chunks entering the atmosphere - are a surprise for his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah).

Wonderment turns to terror as molten missiles careen into the earth.

"Manny's love is killing us!" screams one of the critters as everyone gallop into caves, cowering together for shelter.

Once the deluge subsides, Manny and his pals Diego the sabre-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) emerge to survey the devastation.

One-eyed daredevil weasel Buck (Simon Pegg) discovers ancient runes that confirm a giant meteorite is heading for the planet.

The animals, including Diego's tigress sweetheart Shira (Jennifer Lopez), Sid's 80-year-old grandmother (Wanda Sykes), Manny's spunky daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer) and her laidback boyfriend Julian (Adam DeVine), embark on a madcap quest to avert disaster.

"No plan is the best plan - that's my philosophy," beams Julian unhelpfully.

Meanwhile, a family of carnivorous flying dinosaurs, comprising father Gavin (Nick Offerman) and children Gertie (Stephanie Beatriz) and Roger (Max Greenfield), tracks the exodus from the air.

Ice Age: Collision Course relies on old tensions between friends and family members to provide the fifth film with a burp of dramatic momentum that quickly dissipates.

Vocal performances are equally flat including the dulcet tones of Jessie J as Sid's love interest, who sings an empowerment anthem over the end credits.

Visuals are colourful, particularly a protracted sequence involving the mystical Shangri-Llama (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), but laughs are thin on the ground.

Ice Age already seemed long in the sabre-tooth after the fourth outing, Continental Drift, four years.

Here, the prospect of a giant asteroid impacting earth and wiping the evolutionary slate clean sounds like a blessing to a family-friendly franchise, which has been running on empty in terms of imaginati