Honestly, why couldn’t they have just listened to fans and reunited with the baby all grown up? Were the negative reviews of the last instalment not hinting enough they were going down the wrong path?
So, the reason Scrat, the beloved prehistoric rodent always hurting himself to get his somehow-irreplaceable treasure is not in this “Ice Age” movie is not from an executive decision but a lawsuit over who seemingly created the actual character. It is sad he was exempt. But even if I can forgive the filmmakers for having to exclude him and his series-defining acorn adventures, this movie still makes the tragedy of Blue Sky studios going bankrupt from COVID-19 complications really feel like we lost a treasured studio.
I was never a humungous fan of the Ice Age franchise, primarily because I was too young when the first two movies were released and the villains all had terrifyingly sharp teeth. But I was the perfect age for the third film, which I really enjoyed seeing in theatres. I thought the fourth was okay when I saw it at a friend’s house but didn’t have much interest in Collision Course. But now I want to rewatch the rest of the movies and cleanse my eyes and memories, because I am sorry to say the probably final Ice Age movie is so painfully bad it gives me misery at the thought of what some children’s entertainment has gotten to.
Never mind how much time has passed between the last Ice Age movies. The team (remaining) consists of Manny, Sid, Diego, Ellie and Crash and Eddie, all of them with new voice actors who admittedly sound the same as their old ones. Possums Crash and Eddie are never going to change. They’re always going to be goofballs. After an avalanche they accidentally cause that wrecks the gang’s camp they laugh off, it’s noted by the team the two of them are dependent on the others. Crash and Eddie are basically told they can’t survive without support, and the only thing they’re good at is playing dead. Half taking these words to heart, half wishing they could just have fun without being bossed around, they decide to sneak off and give independence a try.
They find themselves back in The Lost World, the place underneath the ice where the remaining dinosaurs live. They’re soon found in danger and rescued by their old weasel friend Buck (Simon Pegg, the only original voice actor reprising his role, and I can’t help but wonder why that is.) He tells them it’s great seeing them again but it’s bad timing because he’s fighting against the only talking dinosaur, Orson, who wants to rule the dinosaur world. But when the way Crash and Eddie came from ends up blocked, Buck ends up having to babysit them, as well as team back up with an old friend, a zorilla named Zee (Justina Machado, and thanks to her performance is the only welcome new addition.) Meanwhile, certain Crash and Eddie won’t be able to survive on their own, the original gang heads out to track their friends down before they’re eaten.
Something I’ve admired about all the Ice Age movies (up to this point) is they feature a cast of animals that are now almost all extinct, like the woolly mammoth and saber-toothed tiger and make them so likeable and involving that we feel sad they used to be in our world and are now gone. Manny, Sid and Diego are such an irresistible trio of misfits that it’s no wonder this is such a long-running franchise. Ellie and the possum twins and Buck added to the family just fine. And that light sadness of real-life extinction encompasses this movie, but not for the reason of the others. It’s more like it has the feeling we’re never revisiting this series again and this is the final nail.
So, for starters, other than Scrat, it’s always a bad sign when a series disregards progress. Where’s Shira, Diego’s girlfriend? Or Peaches and Julian? Or even Brooke? They may not be as beloved as the characters established in the first three Ice Age’s but the movie’s messages are forever being a family and they decide to leave a lot of the flock out. They aren’t even mentioned. My guess was the writers felt it would be too cluttered (fair point) and we wouldn’t mind them gone and would just enjoy the show (maybe fair point to youngsters but not fair point to me). Even if the Ice Age franchise has always targeted kids and today’s kids might not be interested in rewatching the whole series, it’s still important to respect your prior entries. There’s an additional returning character from Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and not only are her babies that had a prominent role in one of the previous roles not here either, but her actual size is inconsistent. She’s so much shorter now.
The biggest compliment I can give the film is the addition of Zee and how she is not only brave and patient but has an ability some would see as embarrassing that she never feels that way and proudly uses it to help her friends. And a flashback involving the origins of Crash, Eddie and Ellie I was happy to see. But that’s the best I can give. The animation is so shoddy not only is it not even up to par with the 20-year-old original but there are numerous noticeable shortcuts in the tedious action scenes. Characters crash through things and we only see the hole, not them falling through it. A sequence of three characters falling down a hole takes snapshots of their expressions, and there’s not a single ounce of energy, creativity or humour in any of them. Characters fall into water and come out completely dry. Scenes feel pasted together like they realized post-production how things weren’t timed right. The animation company also did the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, which explains a lot. That film also took noticeable shortcuts that took away so much of the spin of the live-action releases.
And Orson is such a boring bad guy. Clearly (and admittedly rightfully) inspired from a corporatist who doesn’t believe in peace and prosperity, his dinosaur army is so puny compared to all the dinosaurs we know about from previous films that he has no chance of taking over The Lost World anyway, and everyone keeps trying to shove it down his throat how wrong he is, clearly trying to teach us a lesson. Even if the lesson is a good one to learn, I’d rather it be shown than shouted. And Utkarsh Ambudkar, who voices him, has proven his talent in other productions but here he gives no personality. He gives us no funny or sinister accent as Orson to let slither into our minds or even gives us a hint he’s having fun being the bad guy dreaming of his tyranny. Within five minutes you’ll forget what he sounds like.
One of the messages in the film involves assumptions sometimes being wrong and people can surprise you. But I was unable to be convinced anyone was in the wrong because there was no logical reason to doubt Crash and Eddie could make it from their prior history. They may end up succeeding at some things, but that doesn’t mean it was wrong to be hesitant about them.
Pretty much everything in Adventures of Buck Wild feels like the people behind it knew they weren’t sending the series off on a notable end and the only reason they weren’t stopping what they were doing to come up with at least a better idea if they didn’t have as good animation was that they needed to get it to Disney+ for streaming. Blue Sky Studios had to shut their doors last year, and it might be false hope to hope someone rich can make an investment to give them a comeback in upcoming years. But we can hope this will inspire studios to know when to leave projects alone.
If you like this, I’d try the original Ice Age movies, especially the third, and the Shrek movies