The herd has gone through a lot of changes since we last visited them in 2006. Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are an old married couple, now, expecting their first baby. Diego (Denis Leary) is sullen about loosing his highly honed hunting skills and decides to leave the group. Sid wants a family of his own and the ubiquitous Scrat (Chris Wedge) has competition for his prized acorn. It is Sid’s naïve desire that will reunite them all in a valiant rescue attempt that will bring the herd to “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”
This third installment in the “Ice Age” franchise is an amiable, goofy hodge-podge that works hard in giving each of the familiar characters a fully realized story and, thus, a moral lesson learned from each. Love, friendship, family, bravery, kindness, sensitivity to others and the need for teamwork are all pleasantly covered in the script by Peter Ackerman and Michael Berg. The 3D effect is a plus, giving volume to the routine adventure. Familiarity may breed contempt, though, and the franchise grows tired.
You get more of the same from the original and its sequel with Manny, overwhelmed with the prospect of being a daddy, becoming insensitive to what is going on around him. This drives Diego further into his personal struggle between being the hunter that he is and the loyal member of the herd. Sid is a flake, as usual, and his hi-jinx of finding and adopting three dinosaur eggs is a shock to the rest, especially when mama dinosaur comes looking for her babies. (Don’t even think about how the dinos survived the ice age that supposedly killed them all. Suspend disbelief, mom and dad, this one is for the kids.)
There is a breath of fresh air in this newest “Ice Age,” though, when we meet Buck (Simon Pegg), a feisty, one-eyed weasel who migrated to the hidden land of the dinosaurs in search of his nemesis: a giant, mean ‘saur named Rudy. Pegg and his animators create a character that could become a star in his own right on direct to DVD. Buck is funny, tough and self-reliant and demands that his orders be followed. (He also invented the knife.) Mama and her dino babies are there mostly for the “Aw! Isn’t that cute?” factor, though momma is a major player in the rescue yarn. Scrat gets a girlfriend/foe, Scratte (Karen Disher), a pretty, smart saber-toothed flying squirrel. The acorn rules, still.
There is enough adult-targeted humor to keep the accompanying adults mildly amused, like “yaba daba do,” the red wire/blue wire dilemma, a cell phone rock and a “coming out” reference. It is not enough to make this a “for all ages” movie. It is aimed at the sizeable audience of kids and parents who have to tag along.
This is one where the 3D experience is mandatory. It fixes the otherwise flat animation by giving it artificial depth. This is the opposite of the marvelous “Up,” where the slick technology merely enhances the masterful animation and production. “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is for the kids who have frequently visited its predecessors and want more of the same. I give it a B-.
As wooly mammoths Manny (voice of Ray Romano) and Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah) prepare for the birth of their first child, 'herd' buddy sabre-toothed Diego (voice of Denis Leary) feels pushed aside while Sid the sloth (voice of John Leguizamo) decides to bring up his own family by caring for three eggs that hold a surprising species in "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs."
The "Ice Age" series has never been cutting edge animation. It's perhaps best known for its Wile E. Coyote-like squirrel/rat character Scrat, joined here by an acorn competitive love interest Scratte in a subplot that recalls Pepe le Pew. This time out, the newly popular 3-D format is applied with the current trend of accentuating the action rather than calling undo attention to it. In the film's best (and early) scene, Sid tobaggons down a slippery slope while trying to protect his unhatched Eggbert, Shelly and Yoko. Once the babies come into play, however, mom is a force to be reckoned with.
The filmmakers work around the fact that dinosaurs didn't exist in the Ice Age by relegating them to a world under the earth's surface. Here, Manny, Ellie, Crash (voice of Seann William Scott), Eddie (voice of Seann William Scott) and Sid meet Buck (voice of Simon Pegg, "Shaun of the Dead," "Star Trek"), a weasel who acts as tour guide and helps 'buck up' the flagging series.
Scrat and Scrattes escapades are interspersed throughout and their are a few cute jokes, most notably a noxious gas that enables characters to sing like Alvin and the Chipmunks.
"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" is pleasant enough and the kiddies should enjoy it, but it's also utterly forgettable. What's next - the "Baby Muppets" version of Manny?
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