Written by Tresca Mallon
Ice Age is an extremely successful film franchise, famous for its novel animation style, humorous yet heartfelt storylines and its uniquely quirky host of characters. This innovative style was carefully curated by the relatively small animation team at Blue Sky Studios. In 2019 Disney acquired the assets to Blue Sky and in early 2021 they closed down the studio. This meant a whole new animation team was responsible for the newest Ice Age vehicle. Unfortunately, this change-over is glaringly obvious in the film’s animation style which is much more rudimentary and unfinished, with an almost videogame aesthetic which pales in comparison to the polished computer animation of the original films.
The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is the Ice Age franchise’s first spin-off and first film produced by Disney. It follows Crash and Eddie (Vincent Tong and Aaron Harris), the adopted possum twin brothers of Ellie the Mammoth, who is married to Manny the Mammoth - yes they really went to the fringes for this one - as they travel back to the Lost World from Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. In this vibrant world of Dinosaurs and unusual creatures Crash and Eddie are saved by the enigmatic Buck Wild (Simon Pegg), who they join forces with and become embroiled in a Lost World power struggle.
A starkly obvious difference in this film is the change of voice actors from the original films. It’s not known why the original voice actors didn’t return. Whether it was concerns about quality, lack of budget or the lack of theatrical release. It could even have been simply a case of Disney cutting costs. A pet peeve of mine when it comes to Hollywood animation is that star power usually overtakes true voice acting talent. Therefore I would usually support this film’s use of largely unknown voice actors. However, it doesn’t work if you’ve already established a host of iconic characters with distinctive voices like Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary and Queen Latifah who played Manny, Sid, Diego and Ellie in the first five films. It’s not easy to sustainably recreate them and this is probably why none of the usually primary cast feature much in this instalment. Nevertheless, the talented voice actors make a solid and believable attempt.
Simon Pegg as Buck Wild is the only returning voice actor so it makes sense to put him in the starring role. He is, as executive producer Lori Forte pointed out at a press junket, a very popular, loveable and fun character and Pegg puts his all into it. His quirkiness keeps the, at times stagnant, plot entertaining as he talks to inanimate objects and devises madcap plans. The establishment of his relationship with new character Zee the Zorilla (Justina Machado) provides an interesting dynamic and gives layers to a character previously used only for comic relief. However, the dramatic launch of Buck Wild and possums Crash and Eddie into the spotlight is an unconvincing cover-up for the habdash treatment of the other characters who are relegated to a background position. The possum twins also have very little meat on their characters beyond silly quipps and zingers to carry an entire film.
In terms of storyline it’s relatively straightforward hero-villain-struggle and there are enough giggles and fights to keep an audience entertained for an appropriately short run time of 80 minutes. The allegory for chosen family has always been the franchise’s stand-out feature and given the current global situation the message; “that’s the thing about a herd you’re a part of it even when you’re apart” is quite poignant.
However, The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is trading on the ubiquitous name of a successful franchise that has been rapidly declining in quality for years. This should be its final death rattle. We’ve grown up with Ice Age. It’s been in our lives for almost twenty years and it’s always sad when a beloved film franchise becomes more about quantity than quality. But the biggest question of all is; where the hell is Scrat?!