Disney’s boring, flat, and muddled Ice Age spinoff is a callow, mercenary affair.
Ice Age’s creativity melted away so long ago that it may as well have vanished at the end of the actual Pleistocene. The series’ diminishing returns culminated in 2016’s disastrous Ice Age: Collision Course, a picture that made the name Ice Age synonymous with “empty cash grab.” And yet, as paleontologists do, Disney’s gone to dig it up. But rather than, say, exciting discoveries about the lives and times of woolly mammoths, all that the excavation of Ice Age has resulted in is another crummy movie: The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild.
These adventures get off to a dispiriting start when they open on a Walt Disney Pictures logo, denying Blue Sky Studios—the now-defunct creators of the Ice Age series—any credit for work that was at both its worst and its best theirs. That grim opening shifts into a cave art-inspired hand-drawn recap of the previous Ice Age pictures, one that invokes the style of a key sequence from the original film. The Cliff’s Notes close with a shift in focus from Manny the Mammoth (Sean Kenin Elias-Reyes, replacing Ray Romano) onto supporting characters Crash (Vincent Tong, replacing Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Aaron Harris, replacing Josh Peck), a pair of rambunctious possum brothers. The duo feels stifled living with their adopted mammoth sister Ellie (Dominique Jennings, replacing Queen Latifah) and so set off to live on their own. Their journeys take them back to the Lost World last seen in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, where they quickly reunite with one-eyed adventurer weasel Buck (Simon Pegg).
There is more to fear than just hungry velociraptors in the dinosaurs’ realm though. An old enemy of Buck’s, a brainy dino by the name of Orson (Utkarsh Ambudkar), is hankering for vengeance. Taking on Orson could be Crash and Eddie’s chance to prove they’re capable of living on their own, and an opportunity to save the Lost World in the process. Or it could be a chance to end up as someone’s dinner. Either is possible.
Within minutes of Crash and Eddie jumping into slapstick-laden antics, it becomes clear why they’ve never headlined an Ice Age movie before. They just aren’t very funny and there’s little distinct about them as individuals—their names could be swapped and nothing would change. As characters who exist primarily as a vehicle for antics, they aren’t equipped to lead a film. Their sloppy elevation to the spotlight echoes Cars 2’s infamous miscalculation in giving comic relief tow truck Mater the lion’s share of the spotlight.
Monotony weighs down The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild’s craft, and only sporadic instances of sudden character death provide even fleeting amusement. Baddie Orson is an especially phoned-in creation—not helped by overly sleepy vocal work from Umbudkar. The character is so lifeless and so poorly realized that his presence actively hurts the film
The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild’s poor craft traps it in an ouroboros loop.
The screenplay struggles throughout, particularly when it comes to committing to an Aesop. Buck’s final conversation with Orson lays on thick the notion that a proper society is one where everyone who’s different works together. Meanwhile, Ellie’s closing narration turns on the idea that you’re always “part of a pack…even when you’re apart.”
Committing to one of these morals might have given The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild a beating heart with which to build the body of a story. But as it stands, the picture zig-zags between the lessons it wants to teach to the point that it becomes an aimless mess. Any attempts to generate pathos land with a resounding thud.
As shabby as The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild’s writing is, it does fare slightly better than the visuals. With the demise of Blue Sky Studios, Canadian outfit Bardel Entertainment has taken over animation. Sadly, the step down in quality is readily apparent. Character movement is glaringly stiff, inhibiting physical comedy. And the sets are so sparsely detailed that the cast looks out of place. Put simply, the film looks bad and it looks bad consistently.
The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild’s poor craft traps it in an ouroboros loop. The script is poor, so turn to the visuals. The visuals are poor, so turn to the script. And thus, the dinosaur eats its tail forever.
One of the biggest red flags for just how empty The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is is the near-total recasting of the ensemble aside from Pegg. There is very little to say about the replacement players’ work, save that Jake Green’s turn as Sid the Sloth (replacing John Leguizamo) is so far removed from his predecessor’s work that I half-expected a self-referential joke about it.
There will be worse movies in 2022 than The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild. But it’s doubtful I’ll see anything this year hollower or more aggravating in its disinterest in having a creative pulse. The vocal ensemble does not show up. The scripting does not show up. The animation does not show up. If even series mascot Scrat the Saber-Toothed Squirrel couldn’t be bothered to show up for Buck Wild, you really shouldn’t be either.
The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is now available on Disney Plus.