DIRECTOR: John C. Donkin

CAST: Simon Pegg, Vincent Tong, Aaron Harris, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Justina Machado, Sean Kenin Elias-Reyes, Jake Green, Skyler Stone, Dominique Jennings

RUNNING TIME: 82 mins

CERTIFICATE: U

BASICALLY…: Possum brothers Crash and Eddie (Tong and Harris) team with adventurous weasel Buck Wild (Pegg) for a prehistoric adventure…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

In all respects, I should be mad at The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild for simply existing, but I just can’t muster up the energy since, honestly, the whole series was already in steep decline. Although it certainly started off pretty well with two solid family adventures, it’s widely accepted that the Ice Age franchise had declined in quality from the third theatrical instalment onwards, culminating in the much-maligned fifth entry when even audiences stopped caring about the prehistoric adventures of Manny, Sid, Diego and their herd. So, seeing the series devolve even further into a much cheaper and less ambitious direct-to-streaming outing like what we have here is simply par for the course at this point, which says more about how the series itself has fallen out of favour rather than how this new film has panned out.

That doesn’t mean, however, that The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild can’t be called out for its numerous other failings, of which there are certainly plenty to pick from.

After a very exposition-heavy opening that summarises the previous Ice Age movies for viewers that may have been away from the series for too long, we open with our main herd of familiar characters – all now voiced by actors doing half-hearted imitations of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah and others – being subjected to yet another dangerous stunt by possum brothers Crash and Eddie (Vincent Tong and Aaron Harris, replacing Seann William Scott and Josh Peck respectively). Having enough of being told off by their more sensible pack, the brothers decide to strike out on their own, which leads them back to the dinosaur-ridden underworld from the third film, and back into the hands of fearless and kooky weasel adventurer Buck Wild (Simon Pegg, the only original actor to reprise his role). Buck enlists the possums’ help in defeating the evil and unusually intelligent dinosaur Orson (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who plots to take over the prehistoric kingdom with his army of raptors, and along with Buck’s former zorilla partner Zee (Justina Machado) they all set out to save the day, and of course learn some life lessons about family along the way.

Hopefully you may have already picked up on the fact that it’s called The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild, and yet the title character is more of a supporting player in his own movie. The main characters here are actually Crash and Eddie, the two possum brothers who were often the source of irritation in previous Ice Age movies for their childish slapstick and anachronistic pop-culture references (that doesn’t stop here either, where they imagine themselves dabbing to heavy hip-hop, and land crotch-first onto so many solid objects). It’s therefore difficult to get behind these two as our new protagonists, particularly when there is no distinct difference between them in either their looks or their personality, and especially when Buck Wild himself is a much more engaging, adventurous and far more comedically tuned character whenever he’s on-screen. Simon Pegg, ever the professional, also brings some light-hearted energy into his vocal performance, which makes you want him to be the true lead even more instead of these unfunny and rather annoying side characters from the previous films. The whole thing really does feel like it was all originally supposed to focus exclusively on the Buck Wild character, but then at the last minute it was reworked into a sixth Ice Age film (with the other main characters making appearances throughout) just to boost brand appeal.

It still wouldn’t have worked as a sixth Ice Age movie for plenty of other reasons – for one, the series mascot Scrat doesn’t even make an appearance, nor does his ever-elusive acorn (though he did head out into space at the end of the last movie – maybe he’s still on his intergalactic voyages at the same time as this movie). More concerning than that, though, is how much more noticeably cheaper the CG animation looks: with original animation studio Blue Sky no longer around to give it the smoothness of a bigger-budgeted animated tentpole, The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild has been outsourced to more affordable graphic designers which gives it the stiffer, less flexible look and feel of a cartoon TV pilot. There’s never a sense of the epic scale that some of the other movies possessed, mainly because they couldn’t afford to flex that scale this time round, which makes it seem even more of a pointless feature-length adventure if they can’t even do new or more interesting things with the worlds we visit. The story itself is a very basic and generic plot designed only for those of ages in the single digits, with thin characterisations for both its heroes and villains that far better movies geared towards this age group have perfected by this point. It’s just lame all around, with its writing, humour, animation and even its formulaic messages all on par with a number of Disney’s direct-to-video sequels.

Again, though, I just can’t get too mad at it, because this just seems like the most logical next step in this declining franchise by this point. It’s definitely not good, but it’s not as though it completely ruined what was already an extinct film series.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is a lame and unnecessary franchise spin-off that boasts cheap animation as well as basic themes and characters to rival a direct-to-video Disney sequel, subsiding even its own title character to a supporting role in favour of two less interesting and more irritating ones.

The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is now available to stream on Disney+

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