The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild (Disney+) is the sixth installment of the animated prehistoric animals franchise, and for this kinda sorta sequel to 2016’s Ice Age: Collision Course, the herd has thinned considerably. Simon Pegg returns as one-eyed weasel adventurer Buck Wild, as the title suggests. But Pegg is the only legacy cast member, and even though his crusading character lassos the title, that doesn’t mean he’s the star…
The Gist: Well, we’re still in the Ice Age, but a lot of folks aren’t. Let’s start with the usual suspects. Manny the wooly mammoth? Ray Romano is out, and voice actor and celebrity impersonator Sean Kenin is in. Ellie the mammoth, Manny’s kindhearted wife? Queen Latifah is out, and Dominique Jenings is in. And Seann William Scott and Josh Peck as Ellie’s opossum brothers Crash and Eddie? They’re out, too, replaced by Vincent Tong and Aaron Harris, and the mischievous marsupials are also elevated to main storyline status for The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild, which removes many other longtime supporting characters and in general feels much thinner than a film series about an epoch teeming with animal life should.
When we meet Crash and Eddie, they’re performing another rambunctious round of wholesale habitat destruction, to the chagrin of older sister Ellie. They’re also tired of being smothered by her “perfectly reasonable” advice to tone it down, and decide to depart their herd fam – which also includes Sid the sloth (Jake Green) and Diego the saber tooth tiger (Skyler Stone) – in search of destiny and adventure. Of course, these likable goofs are less than prepared for life in the prehistoric wild, and they promptly tumble through an ice sheet and smack dab into the Lost World, a subterranean land that Ice Age fans will recall from 2009’s Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Enormous sauropods clod on by as Crash and Eddie take it all in, but before they know it’s a vicious giant spider sizes them up for a meal. Lucky for them, Buck Wild (Simon Pegg) is on patrol, and the eyepatch-sporting adventure weasel scoops them onto his trusty pterodactyl Penelope.
Buck is the sworn protector of the Lost World and its central watering hole, which is upheld as an oasis of comfort and egalitarianism for mammals and dinos alike. But the region is under fire from Orson (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a big-brained triceratops with his mind on takeover and malevolence. Orson and the throng of raptor hench dinos he controls with flame will overrun the Lost World unless Buck can stop it here, and Crash and Eddie tag along with the one-eyed hero and his best friend, the wily and brave zorilla Zee (Justina Machado), as they rally against Orson’s kingmaking machinations. Largely left behind in this Crash and Eddie underground adventure? Their herd, Ellie and Manny and the rest, who spend the bulk of Buck Wild above ground and out of the action.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of? This is the sixth installment in the Ice Age franchise, which dates all the way back to 2002. Now, that’s a lot of Ice Age-ing, to the tune of multiple billions in revenue, which also explains the raft of adjacent projects, from the short films featuring Ice Age characters attached to other animated features and a few holiday specials on television to an unnamed seventh film in the series that’s said to be in the works.
Performance Worth Watching: Utkarsh Ambudkar plays ceratopsid villain Orson like a kid on the playground with delusions of bullying grandeur. Sure, he can sway the raptors to his side with a simple trick of fire. But he’s still profoundly insecure. It’s not so much that Orson really wants to be king. His true desire is to be higher than everyone else, so he knows that no one’s looking down on him.
Memorable Dialogue: “Dinos rule…mammals drool!” This putdown from Orson is typical of a film that often resembles the lines of communication between different factions of kids vying for turf at the playlot. Pair Orson’s taunt with Buck’s exclamation. “Blimey! Orson’s gonna serve his raptors an all-you-can-eat mammal buffet!”
Sex and Skin: No way!
Our Take: Lost World? More like Empty World. The vast landscape beneath the glaciers and ice that Eddie and Crash stumble back into is supposedly populated with a children’s book variety of Pliocene heavy-hitters like sauropods, overgrown beavers, short-faced bears, giant sloths, a coterie of rodents, and early marsupials. But very little of that disparity is on display here, as the showdown between Buck, Zee, Crash and Eddie and the villain Orson and his dino-hench minions unfolds in a vacuum of generic greenspace and empty waterways. Even the map that our heroes follow to find an old friend only lists a few points of interest. What’s even more disappointing about Buck Wild is its indifference to the host of characters it could really use, namely, the brotherly opossums’ herd family, who wander aimlessly along the margins of the film. The appearances they do make – Manny, Ellie, and in particular the buffoonish Sid and Diego, who’s an utter blank here – are rote extensions of the familiar, with precious little wit or verve.
Simon Pegg is an actor seemingly constructed in a lab to voice gregarious animated characters, and he brings some zest to Buck, particularly when the wry weasel is matching wits with Orson. The banter between Crash and Eddie is also enjoyable in its pleasant din. These two are entirely harmless, but they’re also a pair of natural sidekicks entirely not built as faces of a franchise. Putting their antics and wanderlust out in front gives The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild one thing, and that’s a route away from the film’s time-honored cast of characters, with Buck himself left to pick up the slack.
Our Call: SKIP IT. The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild feels like a tangent, or perhaps a try-out pilot for a small screen Crash & Eddie ‘toon. What it doesn’t feel like is a feature film.
Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges