Who knew that introducing a delusional, swashbuckling, one-eyed weasel as a guide into a lost world of dinosaurs would not only make another Ice Age more interesting but actually enjoyable?
When last we left our talking, snowbound animal friends Manny the Mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (voice of John Leguizamo), and Diego the saber-toothed Tiger (Denis Leary), they had joined up with Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah) and her possum-like protectors. Now awaiting a blessed event that won’t be explained to the children in the audience so their parents can look at each other and smile, Sid is stolen away after once again messing in something he shouldn’t have been. This prompts the whole gang to go after him, but it isn’t until a weasel named Buck (voice by Simon Pegg) shows up that the real adventure begins.
Signs that your franchise concept may have run out of steam includes coming up with plot hooks about a pregnant mammoth, a saber-toothed tiger who’s out of practice, and a sloth looking to adopt (and in 3D, no less). Much of the beginning of this new Ice Age film threatens to drag on far worse than its first unnecessary sequel, The Meltdown. While the discovery of a “lost world” of dinosaurs (which would have died out ages earlier) seems intended to invigorate the plot and terrorize our too-comfortable characters, it’s actually the appearance of Simon Pegg’s one-eyed Buck that suddenly and quickly breathes life into the film. A better question at this point would be, did we even need the rest of the cast once this guy showed up? Cue the avalanche!
I’ve failed to mention Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel trying to get his beloved nut, up until this point because his appearance, like the previous films, has been incidental. He’s treated as a comic-relief subplot and a transition device between scenes. As a character, his new trials and tribulations are brought on by a female (who also has her eye on Scrat’s nut). There really should be some precedent for your comic relief subplot to be less interesting than your actual storyline, but the filmmakers are either blissfully unaware that this is the more compelling story or actually counting on it as some kind of distraction from a main plot already on thin ice.
Fortunately, Buck saves the main characters, the day, and the film. As a Captain Ahab, Ben Gunn, and Indiana Jones all rolled into one, Buck is as fun to watch as he is to listen to. Whether telling the story of his encounter with a mythical beast or anachronistically feigning a cell phone call on a stray rock he picks up, Buck steals every scene and is missed from the time he vanishes until his reappearance. Fearless, intelligent, and inventive, it’s hard to tell if his delusions are from being away from civilized folk for too long or being dropped on his head too many times as a child. Seriously, though, if 20th Century Fox is considering another Ice Age, may we humbly suggest scrapping that idea and begin work immediately on “One-Eyed Buck and the Temple of the Pterodactyls?”
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)