The A.V. Club Takes The Ice Age Voice Cast to Task

Via: NY Daily News

The A.V. Club, as the serious, cultural  arm of The Onion is sometimes quite trite in their reviews of films. The latest Ice Age film is no exception, but what is noteworthy is the grilling the voice cast receives. Naturally they are all celebrities with no real voice-acting experience:

On paper, Continental Drift boasts a jaw-dropping voice cast, including but not limited to Jennifer Lopez, Patrick Stewart, Wanda Sykes, Aziz Ansari, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Alan Tudyk. But in practice, the overstuffed ensemble leaves the cast no room to distinguish themselves, and directors Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier don’t seem interested in coaxing performances that might render their money stars less identifiable. With the help of some low-end boosting, Dinklage musters a decent amount of kid-appropriate menace—although he never does explain his gift for finding chunks of ice shaped like pirate ships—but Romano and Leary mainly sound bored, droning through their lines as if they’re simultaneously texting the contractors building the additions on their houses funded by their fat sequel paychecks.

Ouch! There is no punches being pulled there. Now we all know that celebrities being hired simply for being them is always a bad idea for a film (DreamWorks’ upcoming Smeckday features the voice talents of all people, Rihanna) but I can’t help but wonder whether we are in a bit of a bubble with this one.

As more and more large studio films use celebrity voice acting, there is bound to come a point where there will simply not be enough celebrities to go around. Second-rate talent will likely come in, and for most of the public, only the very best animation can make up for a poor voice.

Will we hit a point where star names can’t sell an animated property? Yes, we will. How far away that is though, will depend on how long the quality holds up in films like Ice Age. Professional voice actors  live and die by their vocal performances so while they may not have the name power that celebrities have, they are more than capable of matching them in abilities.

And as a bonus, here’s the best line from the article, right at the very end:

But the only person who earned their keep on Ice Age: Continental Drift is the MPAA flunky who shoehorned in the line, “Silly rabbit—piracy doesn’t pay!”

Epic: A New Low In Celebrity Voice Casting

It’s a topic I’ve covered in the past, and one that continually grinds my gears in more ways than one. However none more so than the recent announcement of the cast for the upcoming FOX animated film, Epic. When I saw it, my heart almost sank.

Who picks these people? That’s what I want to know. Beyonce? OK, sure, she has some sort of vocal talent, for which there had better be some good songs coming out of this film. Pitbull on the other hand; how does he fit into the mix? I once read a tweet that described him as the guy who shows up in the middle of songs and starts rapping gibberish. How about Johnny Knoxville? The guy’s a decent actor for sure, but what about his voice? Can you picture anyone else shouting “I’m Johnny Knoxville and welcome to Jackass”? I can think of at least 5 personal friends that will give him a good run for the money. Throw in Colin Farrell, the guy from the Hunger Games and Steven Tyler among others and you have a very weird cast altogether.

Is this something that studios are losing sight of? Yes, a star can help sell a film, but it won’t make the film. Think of Delgo, it was a film that had an admittedly admirable B-list celebrity voice cast, but it was a terrible film that failed. Celebrities far from made that film into a success.

So why keep doing it? If Eddie Murphy costs $10 million, that’s $10 million that can’t be spent on (a lot of) animation. In addition, you have to earn double that at the box office to turn a profit. What studio wouldn’t want to get the same or similar film for a good deal less? Add in a couple of celebrities and we’re already talking double-digit percentages of the total cost. Will Eddie Murphy bring in $10 million more in box office gross? For something like a family film like Shrek, I would hope to doubt it, but then I do tend to overestimate the intelligence of people.

Another aspect of the practice is that celebrities are a brand onto themselves. By associating them with a film, a studio is essentially betting that their brand identity will be strong enough to boost sales. That may be OK if it were a company, but if you’re betting on a single person that could prove problematic, if say for example, that person ends up in rehab but you just cast them in a family film, and so forth.

Who si to blame? Studios are to be sure, but celebrities and their agents are the catalyst and someone in the casting department is getting hoodwinked.

I’m sure Epic will be an OK film, but with a cast like that, I can’t help but wonder whether the film will actually suffer instead of benefitting.