When The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild was announced at Disney Investor Day in December 2020, a collective *sigh* was heard on Film Twitter that yet another Ice Age installment was upon us. This comes after the fifth film, Collison Course, was panned by critics and fans alike. I was mildly interested in it since I share a fond affinity with Dawn of the Dinosaurs. A Buck (Simon Pegg)-centered spinoff can work…that is until we all found out that Disney closed down Blue Sky Studios and that the Buck Wild movie never implicated them. How can you not involve Blue Sky when you’re doing another film in their most popular franchise? Then the first trailer came out on Disney+ Day last November, and boy did it look terrible. It looked nothing like the stunning animation Blue Sky developed in the last Ice Age movie and felt like an awful direct-to-video sequel you’d see in the late 1990s and early 2000s, back when Disney loved to make DTV sequels of their most popular movies.
But I wanted to go into the movie with an open mind, nonetheless. I don’t think that the Ice Age series, while the last two installments were quite stale, is outright terrible. The animation has significantly improved, from the first film to the fifth, and the Scrat bits always kept me engaged. When I was a kid and saw the first three Ice Age films in theatres, I didn’t much care for the “story” at hand and always wanted to see what Scrat was up to next (and he’s a much more adorable and less annoying character than the Minions). So even if the animation looked terrible from the trailer, maybe the story would keep me interested in this? No. The Ice Age franchise has truly gone stale, and without Blue Sky at the helm, there is no point in continuing to exploit their IPs when the ideas you come up with have already been treated in previous movies. Even worse: Scrat is nowhere to be found after Disney lost rights to the character amid a 20-year dispute with Ivy Supersonic.
Aside from Simon Pegg, none of the original cast returns. Soundalikes replace them. I’ll admit I thought John Leguizamo voiced Sid, but he didn’t. After a pretty decent 2D animated sequence where Ellie (Dominique Jennings) recaps the events of the past five films, the movie jarringly switches to 3D, and the budget constraints immediately become apparent. None of the animated characters walk inside the frame fluidly and aren’t adequately rotoscoped. There are times in which you see characters with unrendered edges as they run from the “CGI Matte Painted” frame. It’s the Superman IV: The Quest for Peace of animated sequels, with a massive dip in quality from the last movie in favor of quick and cheap animation, coupled with a quick and cheap story.
And by “quick and cheap,” I mean “we’ve all seen it before.” Crash (Vincent Tong) and Eddie (Aaron Harris) are tired of being told what to do by Ellie and decide to run away from the pack after Manny (Sean Kenin Elias-Reyes) tells them they would not survive on their own. They want to prove him wrong and, while “being free,” accidentally land back into The Lost World. Great news, because that means the Possum duo can hang out with Buck again, who has problems of his own. A highly intelligent protoceratops named Orson (Utkarsh Ambudkar) wants to take over The Lost World in a “survival of the fittest” mode. In contrast, Buck wants every species to live together in peace and harmony. So yeah, Crash and Eddie learn the values of friendship while being taught how to survive in the wild, on their own, by Buck and Zee (Justina Machado), a Zorilla who was part of Buck’s superhero film during the first time Orson invaded the Lost World.
Of course, if you’ve seen any movie in which a patriarchal or matriarchal figure says to their kids, “you won’t survive on your own!” type stuff, which will then cause them to run away and go on an adventure, then you’ve seen The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild. Literally. It may be a sufficient distraction for children under two for 77 minutes (without credits). Still, other animated movies are worth your time than this for the average moviegoer. Every single theme this movie treats, on adventure, learning from your mistakes, and saying “it’s OK” to let go of your family to live your own life, have all been treated (more than once) in the past five films. Unfortunately, when Collison Course started talking about the same themes as Continental Drift, the franchise started to get a tad worn out.
But The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild doesn’t hide that every aspect of the story is worn out. We’ve got typical “teen rebel” characters who don’t want to do what the adult tells them to do until they’re thwarted in an adventure they have no place being. They now have to learn to fend for themselves from a typical villain who wants to “take over” the Lost World because he’s the “smartest” individual. But he’ll learn that being smart does not equal working with a team who are on the same page because “teamwork makes the dream work,” right? Yeah…
It also doesn’t help that none of the voice cast particularly enjoys being here, even Simon Pegg, whose disinterest in the material feels apparent. There’s no emotional punch in his vocal performance, even if his character is highly expressive and fast-paced. And the same can be said for the soundalikes, who do admirable imitations of the famous characters (though Reyes’ Manny sounds nothing like Ray Romano), but nothing more. They never want to give their spin on the characters and stay in monotonous soundalike voices in the hopes that the audience won’t notice (as I said, Sid’s is pretty good, but the rest are pretty noticeable).
So if the animation isn’t engaging, the story is amazingly predictable, and the voice cast sound audibly bored, then you’re in for a subpar sequel that has no business existing other than Disney trying desperately to milk the cow of their 20th Century IP. But if the creators (in this case, Blue Sky) aren’t involved, then what’s the point? I know that a Rio film is in development for Disney+ (and a seventh installment in the Ice Age franchise, dear God), but maybe it’s best to retire these franchises if Blue Sky will not be a part of the development of these potential films and series.
The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is now streaming on Disney+.