‘The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild’ Review: A Franchise Thaws

Upon beginning “The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild,” the sixth feature in the animation franchise that grows woollier by the movie, you sense something amiss. Perhaps it’s the dinosaur paradise serenely preserved beneath alpine glaciers? Can’t be: That particular anachronism has been canon for several “Ice Age” installments.

Rather, oddness stems here from the missing cast of celebrity performers, including Ray Romano, who over five movies lent surly gusto to the mammoth Manny, and John Leguizamo, the source of the sloth Sid’s erratic charm. Neither appears in “Buck Wild” (on Disney+), which opts instead for a set of close proxies. Substituting actors in sequels isn’t unheard-of (Robin Williams was notably absent from “The Return of Jafar”), but adults may find themselves absorbed in nit-picking this movie’s voices to gauge their fidelity to the originals — at least it distracts from the dialogue.

And there’s a lot of dialogue. Directed by John C. Donkin, “Buck Wild” spotlights the motor-mouthed possum brothers Crash (Vincent Tong) and Eddie (Aaron Harris), who in earlier movies served only as half-witted sidekicks. Seeking adventure, they reunite with the one-eyed weasel Buck (Simon Pegg, the only actor reprising his role) and tag along on his quest to save the subterranean Mesozoic jungle from a despotic Protoceratops (Utkarsh Ambudkar). It’s simpler than it sounds.

Reining in the chaos is a sensible zorilla named Zee (Justina Machado) who bails the boys out of trouble while teaching us that courage comes from within. Being detained with this zoological crew could melt one’s brain faster than ice in a heat wave. And where is Scrat, the squirrel whose unwavering pursuit of an acorn is often the franchise’s saving grace? Nearly nonverbal, Scrat wouldn’t even require a locum tenens; of all the movie’s sins, his omission is unforgivable.

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The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 21 minutes. Watch on Disney +

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