Eleanor Dunn ‘24
Editor’s Note: Contains spoilers for The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild
As I sat down to watch The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild, I had much to consider. Primarily, what I, as a grown woman, was doing with my life. I also wondered if this franchise, which has grossed over $6 billion, could hold up on movie number six.
The first Ice Age installment aired when I was five years old, and it seems that since then, there has been a reliable stream of increasingly chaotic films following these extinct creatures as they laugh, love, and against all odds, live. I wondered how these characters might have grown along with me and my generation — what of our struggles might play out in this animated world of prehistoric climate change and impending decimation? How would director John Donkin use this perfectly positioned platform to make sense of a changing world for his younger audience as they grow up?
Given these ambitious questions, I am to blame for a great deal of my disappointment with this film. But its 20 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes tells me that I am not alone.
The movie begins with the motley family that starred in the first five films: two mammoths (who seem to be having major relationship issues), a saber-toothed tiger, a sloth, and two possums. Trouble begins for our original squad when the possum brothers, Crash and Eddie, decide they are sick of their mammoth sister Ellie’s constant nagging.
They sneak off while everyone sleeps and find themselves in a lost underground world of dinosaurs. Here is where I started to really lose my grip on reality, so bear with me. In the lost world, their weasel friend Buck saves them from dinosaur jaws. I don’t know how to say this, but Buck… slays? He has a British accent and an eye patch, giving major Captain Jack Sparrow vibes.
The primary conflict outside the multi-species family drama takes place in this borderline psychedelic world of dinosaurs. There is a triceratops named Orson who has a huge and visible brain that he was bullied for as a young dino. It is truly disgusting. This self-proclaimed genius has decided that as revenge, he will kill all the mammals in the underground dino world after Buck and his mammal squad worked so hard to establish diversity and inclusion at the watering hole. Crash, Eddie, Buck, and a zorilla named Zee must take down Orson and his army of raptors. They do so, largely through spitballs and Zee’s skunk-like spray.
The plot left me with a flurry of questions. Why was it so easy for four rodents to defeat this so-called genius triceratops and his army of dinosaurs? How is there a full underground ecosystem of dinosaurs with a complex weather system? What kind of example is all of this setting for the target audience?
In the end, although the whole original family squad comes to help, Crash and Eddie decide to stay with Buck in the lost world, revealing this whole saga to be nothing other than a coming-of-age story for the possum brothers. I appreciated the bittersweet, going off to college vibe of this ending, and see how it might resonate with the parents and babysitters dragged to the theater for this one. But I found this ending too far removed from the titular adventures of Buck Wild, therefore an unsatisfying conclusion that leaned on easy sentimentality to avoid reckoning with the shit-show of a plot.
There are some issues with this absurd plot that never reach resolution. For absolutely no reason, the mammoth couple Ellie and Manny seem to hate each other in the sitcommy heterosexual married couple way that is neither endearing nor refreshing. Also, again for seemingly no good reason, Zee is serving the MOST unrealistic body standards for zorillas — please just look her up.
One of the most incomprehensible plot holes is that every animal in this movie besides the T. rex and the raptor army can speak. Why? Where do they draw the line with the personification and with what standards? I imagine Donkin relishing this opportunity to play God, arbitrarily granting and withholding the right to expression.
Despite all of these pitfalls, the creative aspects of the film brought me back to the imaginative and childlike wonderment I felt viewing the first one. I loved the creative use of leaves in this world for Buck’s eye patch and Zee’s tool belt. The rodent crew also use bamboo shoots as straws and even make a sailboat from a dinosaur skull and a giant leaf.
The remarkable thing about this movie is the complete absence of feeling it left me with. I would go so far as to say it left me in a stupor, a dreamlike state of detached confusion. Maybe the over-detailed hairs swayed in hypnotic rhythm, maybe the too-long frames of the wide, unblinking eyes of the characters contributed to this trance.
Either way, the appealing color palette and satisfying use of plants for home decor, weaponry, and clothing could not quite distract from the failings of this film. It relied on tired tropes of marriage and unequal distribution of emotional labor in family systems. It had a feeble and easily defeated villain with a gross looking head. The animation was unsettling at best, a mind control tactic at worst, leaving me worried about the iPad generation I’m sure it appeals to, wondering where we all went wrong.
Image Source: Variety