The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild (2022) Review
A TERRIBLY PLOTTED AND POORLY
OUTDATED SPIN-OFF ENDEAVOR
While DreamWorks had Shrek, Pixar has Toy Story, and Illumination Entertainment has Despicable Me, Blue Sky Animation, a subdivision under 20th Century Fox, had Ice Age as their flagship series. Created back 2002, Ice Age follows the cartoon adventures of a group of animal misfits, a Mammoth, a sloth, a sabretooth, and other colorful characters throughout their time in Earth’s prehistoric era. Since then, Blue Sky has churned out Ice Age sequels, furthering continuing the misadventures of our pre-historic group with the subtext names of The Meltdown in 2006, Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 2009, Continental Drift in 2012, and Collison Course in 2016. Each sequential installment, despite having mediocre reviews, has raked in big success at the worldwide box office, which continued to propel Blue Sky to further advance the Ice Age franchise, even though most saw the series was losing its edge. With Disney’s studio acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019, the idea of continuing the Ice Age saga was put into limbo, with some speculative notions pointing towards placing the series on the Disney+ streaming platform. Soon after, however, it was announced that Disney decided to close Blue Sky Animation permanently and hand over the animation control of Ice Age to someone else. Now, the Ice Age gang returns as Bardel Entertainment (under the primary banner of Walt Disney Studios) and director John C. Donkin present the spin-off / quasi sequel installment in the series tilted The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild. Does this latest entry renew interest in this long-running animated adventure or is it just the final nail in the coffin for this pre-historic cartoon narrative to go extinct? ￼
Crash (Vincent Tong) and Eddie (Aaron Harris) are two brother possums, who’s scattering brain mischief can be a handful for their sister, Ellie (Dominique Jennings) to manage, trying to keep her siblings out of danger. The brothers want their “independence” managing to sneak away one night in their endeavor hunt for freedom and make their way in the world. What the pair find is a return to the Lost World, soon reuniting with the adventurer Buck (Simon Pegg), who’s been struggling to maintain order in the land since the breakup of his super team of heroes, which sought to bring harmony to the local watering hole. Trouble soon comes back into the Lost World in the form of a triceratops named Orson (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who’s bring an army of velociraptors with him, hoping to claim dominance over the underground land. Realizing Crash and Eddie are missing, Ellie, along with her husband Manny (Sean Kenin Ellias-Reyes), Diego (Slyler Stone), and Sid (Jake Green) set out to find the possum members of the heard, encountering their own troubles along the way, with Buck trying to find a way to stop Orson’s scheming and manage the two possums at the same time.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Like I said above, the Ice Age franchise has been around the block with its features films; living through an ice age (and its melting), battling dinosaurs, exploring the continental shifts, and avoiding doom from a falling meteor. So, it’s easy to say that the franchise has been around the block (sort of) and is definitely showing its wear. Unfortunately, with its box office success growing, Blue Sky Animation had continued the franchise by ways and means of producing Ice Age sequels every so often….in an attempt to make a foot placement on the animated feature film market. To me, it’s been hit or miss with each movie. I liked the first movie, the second was okay-ish, liked the third one, hated the fourth one, and the fifth one just felt lazy as if the minds behind Ice Age were just “going through the motions” of generating another entry in the franchise without any creative thinking behind it. To me, it was a low point for the series (I still think that Continental Drift is lowest point of the series) and still believe that the animated adventure of Manny, Sid, and Diego should’ve ended after Dawn of the Dinosaurs. There still much that I do like about the Ice Age flicks, especially the voice acting involved as well as the sporadic misadventures of Scrat. Still, I think that the main attraction of these films has come and gone and, with the news that Blue Sky Animation was closing after Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, it seems that the franchise was done.
Of course, I was wrong about that, which brings me back to talking about The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild, the sixth entry in the Ice Age series. To be sure, I say sixth entry as it’s not really a sequel installment to me, with the movie acting more like a spin-off endeavor. After watching Collison Course, I definitely felt that the franchise had run its course and wasn’t expecting another adventure from the Ice Age gang. Yet, here is the latest feature, offering up another trip to the prehistoric era, with everyone’s favorite “herd” clan of mammoths, a sloth, possums, and a sabretooth. In actuality, I really didn’t hear anything about this project until a few months ago and I do have to say that I was unimpressed with the anticipation for it. Naturally, the idea of another Ice Age movie wasn’t something I was looking forward to seeing, but I briefly saw the film’s movie trailer and it didn’t look that good. Of course, I did like the character of Buck from Dawn of the Dinosaurs (and one of the redeeming qualities of watching Collision Course), but this whole “Buck Wild” premise for the upcoming feature didn’t look that enticing. So, I really didn’t take a shine to this movie, especially since it was going to be released on Disney+ and it was quietly released on their without much fanfare. Now, with my movie reviews mostly caught up, I finally had some free time as I watched the film one afternoon and decided to give it a go. And what did I think of it? Well, I would definitely have to say that all the negative reviews and criticisms surrounding this feature are correct….and that’s not a good thing. The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is a messy, disjointed, and overall lackluster entry in the long-running animated franchise that never really shines and is a poor redux shell of what original five movies were. Hands down…. this movie is the worst entry in the series.
The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is directed by John C. Donkin, who makes his directorial debut with this picture. With a background that is familiar with several of the Ice Age projects (as a producer), Donkin seems like a somewhat suitable choice for helming a movie such as this. Granted the task of providing a sides-story / spin-off endeavor for the series, Donkin manages to cultivate a halfway decent story that, while sloppily handled, is still easily to digest and can be understood by all ages. Plus, I do like how the movie does return back to the Lost World setting and does utilize the character of Buck as more of large supporting character in the movie. Buck was one my favorite (well, not favorite…. maybe like second or third favorite of the Ice Age characters), and it’s great to seeing him again in this movie. Plus, I do sort of like how Crash and Eddie finally get their moment to shine in beyond being the slapstick supporting characters like in the previous installments. So, for better or worse, Donkin does give a sincere gesture to make Buck Wild a halfway respectable spin-off project from the Ice Age saga. Additionally, the film’s score, which was composed by Batu Sener, is relatively good. There is nothing to rave or rant about the musical composition, but it wasn’t terrible or anything like that. It’s just there and provides enough to make certain scenes evoke emotion, laughter, and the like.
Unfortunately, Buck Wild is far from being a perfect animated movie (let alone a good one) and ends up being one of the weakest installment of the entire Ice Age franchise. How so? Well, for me, the biggest problem in the movie would definitely have to be the film’s animation style. As mentioned above, when Disney purchased 20th Century Fox Studio, they (as a company) effectively shut down Blue Sky Animation, but owned all the rights to their projects and film franchises, including the Ice Age series. With a new animation studio at the helm (Bardel Entertainment), the animation for Buck Wild is definitely different from the previous entries and not in a good way. It looks cheap and outdated from right the get-go, with a jarring style of fluidness throughout, which causes the movie to have a disjointed feeling as characters (and scenery) are presented and moved in a very glaring / problematic way. Everything from characters to background looks derivate and done on a budgetary reduction, which causes Buck Wild to have a low-priced animation that seems outdated and far cry from being a 2022 animated release of today’s caliber. So, it really begs the question as to why Disney, who has an illustrious animated studio in their arsenal and has produced countless animated endeavors over the decades, would decide to hand over reigns to a smaller company for this new Ice Age projects, especially one that looks really distaste and cheap-looking compared to the original ones. It’s completely baffling!
This even furthers warrants the idea of why Disney would want to continue the Ice Age franchise altogether. Yes, the movies did bring in a reasonable box office result for 20th Century Fox, but nothing along the lines that say a Disney animated feature or even a Pixar flick could produce. So…. why continue the franchise if the “House of Mouse” masterminds really didn’t put that much time and effort into expanding the series the correct way. Heck, Disney could’ve made the Ice Age movies better, with a larger emphasis in changing things up.
Even if you look beyond that notion, a great majority of Buck Wild is just utterly underdeveloped and lackluster. Perhaps this stems from Donkin’s inexperience as a director, with the movie struggling to find the proper balance of…. well everything. There’s a lot of hodgepodge feeling throughout the film and Donkin seems to be out of his depth, with his lack of experience of directorial handling. Thus, the feature feels uneven and waywardly progresses forward, with really no pizzaz or gumption to make the movie’s presentation grand or even memorable. In addition, the film’s script, which was penned by Jim Hecht, William Schifrin, and Ray DeLaurentis, is also poorly handled, including a very generic story being told. Of course, what’s presented works, but not for a feature length movie. Heck, I would say that the narrative for Buck Wild is basically an elongated storyline from an episodic cartoon TV show of some kind and it could’ve been easily trimmed down to meet the standard 22-to-23-minute runtime for each a tale to be told. Even so, what’s given lacks the necessary length for a feature length movie, which (in turn) makes Buck Wild feel longer than it should….an odd statement as the film itself has a scant runtime of 82 minutes (one hour and twenty-two minutes). Additionally, the movie does have some very odd pacing issues, which makes the film feel quite sluggish and not at all breezy for its relatively short runtime. Also, I forgot to mention that the film’s comedy is relatively derivate and mediocre at best, with the targeted demographic aim at kids for more lower based jokes and gags that aren’t really sharp or creative. In short, nothing about Buck Wild is memorable, nor fun, nor entertaining…. a middling project that never goes anywhere nor gives way to make for impressionable entry in the Ice Age series.
The cast in Buck Wild is relatively mediocre and acts more of a disappointing factor rather than a positive one. Why? Well, with several familiar faces returning, most of the previous acting talents don’t return (the reason behind it is still unknown, but most likely due to budgetary reasons), with replacement voice actors filling in to play the respective primary Ice Age characters. While that’s not normal a problem, the performances in Buck Wild are decent to poor throughout, with most giving badly taste soundalike voices that don’t exactly mesh well, especially with the awful looking animation. This includes several main characters in the Ice Age franchise, including the grumpy mammoth Manny, who is now voiced by actor Sean Kenin (Pokémon and The Casagrandes), his wife Ellie, who is now voiced by actress Dominique Jennings (The Zeta Project and Sunset Beach), the dim-witted sloth Sid, who is now voiced by actor Jake Green (The Boss Baby: Back in Business and BNA), and the vigilant sabretooth Diego, who is now voiced by actor Skyler Stone (Raising Hope and Con). These voice talents seem the most middling and just have that cheap imitation of the actors Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary as well as actress Queen Latifah and it clearly shows whenever their on-screen. Even still, as I mentioned above, these characters sort of get “shortchanged” in the movie. Yes, Buck Wild is clearly a spin-off project, so I knew that they (the primary Ice Age characters) weren’t going to be the main focus of the feature, but…. their representation in the movie is poorly done and just downright messy.
In truth, while the movie’s namesake is more gear towards Buck (i.e. Buck Wild), the actually main characters of the feature would have to go to the two possum brothers of Crash and Eddie. While originally voiced by actors Josh Peck and Sean William Scott since the characters debuted back in Ice Age: The Meltdown, Crash and Eddie are voiced in Buck Wild by actors Vincent Tong (Ninjago and Super Monsters) and Aaron Harris (who makes his voice acting debut in the movie) and there are okay in the film. Like the rest of the main cast of Ice Age characters, Tong and Harris are sort of doing cheap impersonations of Peck and Scott in their portrayals of the prankster possum brothers. It’s serviceable for the film, yet there really isn’t anything to worth note of the characters. The lessons that they learn seems (again) serviceable, but never anything revolutionary. Thus, the voicing of Crash and Eddie by Tong and Harris has to take some precedent over the generic journey path that the characters go on in Buck Wild, but (sadly) they don’t and end up more as middling / forgetful voice talents. The actually only returning voice talent from the main Ice Age motion pictures is actor Simon Pegg (Star Trek and Hot Fuzz) as Buck, the adventurous one-eyed Weasel who makes his home in the Lost World. Pegg is still great in the role of Buck and still retains the brave bravado to the character as well as his inherit eccentricities in Buck Wild. Yet, the character doesn’t really grow in the movie. He still remains the same and Pegg doesn’t have much to play around with; rendering Buck (as much as I loved him in the Ice Age franchise) sort of stall from beginning to end. Still, Pegg is still quite good in providing the voice and ends up being the strongest / memorable voice talent of the entire project.
There isn’t much in the way of new characters in Buck Wild, with the film only presenting two to the feature in the form of female sidekick character to Buck (Zee) and the main antagonist of the picture (Orson). Of the two, Zee, a cunning zorllia and former partner to Buck, gets the most room to shine in Buck Wild, which is mostly due to her character’s voice actor performance from actress Justina Machado (One Day at a Time and Six Feet Under). With maybe the exception of Pegg, Machado seems to have the most lively performance, which is clearly shown in portraying Zee, and she does seem like a strong / capable character that easily could’ve been introduced in the mainline Ice Age series. The flip side is in the other new character of Orson, a small triceratops dinosaur with a big brain and evil plans, who doesn’t really get a moment to shine and ends up being weak character in the film. Voiced by Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect and Free Guy), Orson lacks the villainous sense and is presented as a thinly sketched bad guy with taking over everything. Utkarsh is fine in voicing Orson, but the character is just bland and totally unmemorable and nothing else beyond that, which is disappointing.
Another big disappointment with the movie is the omission of Scrat, the pre-historic sabre tooth squirrel. While not part of the main “herd” group of the franchise, the character of Scrat has always been a part of the Ice Age movies, with the nervous twitching / acorn loving squirrel popping in and out of the movies and having his own misadventures along the way. These sequences are merely loosely connected shorts, yet these moments are fun, engaging, and more technical achievement through the usage of shading, shadowing, and color. Yet, Buck Wild completely omits the involvement of Scrat completely and the absence of the endearing squirrel is missed. However, while some of the criticisms of this feature is because of a reduced budget and / or a new direction, the reason behind Scrat’s omission is more complicated than that, with the original creator for Scrat winning a legal battle with Disney for the usage of the character. Thankfully, the legality for Scrat seems to have reached an agreement by both parties and the character will be featured in the new short Ice Age: Scrat Tales sometime in 2022. Still, the feeling out not seeing Scrat in an Ice Age project like Buck Wild is sorely missed and a big disappointment for me.
Looking prove themselves that they make their way in the world on their own, Crash and Eddie find themselves returning to the Lost World and go off on an adventure in the movie The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild. Director John C. Donkin’s directorial debut film takes a side-step in the animated Ice Age franchise; providing a spin-off endeavor with two of the main characters for a goofy, yet harmless journey of self-discovery and zany mischief. While the intent is there and Pegg and Machado are relatively good in their respective characters, a great majority of the film is horribly executed and downright generic from onset to conclusion, especially from Donkin’s direction, a lackluster narrative, DOA comedy antics, outdated animation, a shift to a more slightly juvenile tone throughout, middling / mediocre voice talents. Personally, I didn’t care for this movie. Naturally, I already had a bad feeling before watching this film, but it was far worse that what I originally anticipated. It felt like one of those cheap imitations endeavors that come out that try to replicate the same type of story / characters from better projects out there…. yet never really achieve that. In truth, the movie felt like to like a poorly rendered (and cheaply made) Saturday morning cartoon from the early 2000s….and that’s not a good thing. Thus, my recommendation for Buck Wild is an equivocally unfavorable “skip it” as the movie doesn’t really have much of ways and means of redeem qualifications to merit a look over. Even if you’re fan of the Ice Age series or have young kids, you’ll be better watch something else for animated distraction. With the exception of a short featuring Scrat coming in 2022, it’s not entirely unsure what Disney will do with the Ice Age franchise, especially after the poor reception that this particular movie has received from both critics and viewers alike. In the end, The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild winds up being a terribly bad animated spin-off feature that doesn’t really go anywhere and is haphazardly slap together, proving that the Ice Age franchise finally needs to go extinct…..
1.3 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: January 28th, 2022
Reviewed On: March 5th, 2022
The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is 82 minutes long and is rated PG for some action and mild language