Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

by | Oct 31st, 2009 | 12:45PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews


IceAge3DawnoftheDinosaurs_2821 I admit I never
gave much thought to the Ice Age movies—I dimly recall seeing the first
one, skipped the second one, and was trying to come up with any reason
at all not to see the latest, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

But since it was in a tight race for first place at the box office
and since my two illustrious co-writers here at redblog were off
enjoying (or not) the grown-up treats of Public Enemies, and in order
to steer my four-year-old nephew off his constant pleadings to see
Transformers 2, I ended up seeing Ice Age: Dinos on a 3D screen. And then
watching Ice Age 2: The Meltdown the next day.

And you know what? I certainly didn’t hate either of them. I’m not much of a
Ray Romano fan (no, everyone certainly does not love Raymond), and
Fox’s Ice Age franchise has always just reeked a bit too much of
carefully calculated, test-screened and focus-grouped slick product.
But as millions of parents have learned, if you’re going to have to
watch a non-Pixar animated movie 100 times a year on DVD, these Ice Age
flicks aren’t the worst that could happen.

Oh, I’m sure the Ice Age mix of Looney Tunes-style slapstick and treacly,
heartwarming message wears thin after about the 50th kid-mandated viewing, but I found Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs a decent
time-passer, filled with enough nonstop, kinda nonsensical, wacky humor
and good-old-fashioned adventure to stave off adult-onset boredom. No, it’s probably not better than Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, but only
by a few shades less, and only in that way that all franchises start to wear
threadbare and thin by their third go-round.

I’m not sure the plot matters much, nor did it seem to matter to
the filmmakers (co-directors Carlos Saldanha from IA2 and Mike Thurmeier from the Scrat short No Time For Nuts), but here goes: Mammoths Manny (Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are expecting a Woolly
bundle of baby Snuffleupagus (leading Manny to construct a playground
while displaying some pretty impressive tool and art skills for a
prehistoric pachyderm).

feeling-left-out Sid goes off and
stumbles onto a trio of dino eggs. Sid plays “mom,” the eggs hatch, the
baby Rexes are adorably chaotic, Mama Rex comes back to fetch them (in
a scene that, when it comes to conveying the awesome size and heft of a
stomping T-Rex, is almost as visually impressive as anything in the
Jurassic Park films or King Kong), and ends up hauling hapless Sid back
to her Lost World, a Conan-Doyle-esque tropical underground land time
forgot. So our friendly herd-family heads down under to rescue Sid.

What? It could happen.

Those of you who insist that mammoths and
dinosaurs did not co-exist, or that an underground world would lack the
necessary sunlight to create a lush, tropical rain forest, well, you
can’t prove
it couldn’t, can you? Anything is possible when we’re talking about
boosting box office by jumping the dino.

The real problem with a three-quel like this, as seen in the more
crass Shrek
franchise, is that each new film, the filmmakers
and crowd-pleasing studios have to bring back old favorites (like
neurotic Manny, Denis Leary’s sardonic Diego the
saber-tooth tiger, and John Leguizamo’s series MVP, Sid the Sloth), as
well as
new favorites from the last film (Ellie and her
“brother possums” Crash and Eddie–Seann William Scott and Josh Peck,
respectively). And of course, there has to be a certain amount of Scrat
Saber-tooth Squirrel’s Wile E. Coyote vignettes, this time with a new
interest, Scratte.

Then the latest film, for marketing tie-in and toy-sale reasons, must have new
characters. This time in addition to some dino babies, the newcomer is
Buck the Weasel–a mammalian castaway in DinoLand, voiced with delightful Cockney abandon by Simon Pegg
(Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and of course Scotty in the new Star
)—a sort of deranged English answer to Shrek’s swashbuckling, sarcastic Puss
in Boots.

As usually happens by the third film, that makes for
a pretty crowded and disjointed field. Luckily Pegg’s
too-long-in-the-jungle, Errol Ferret performance manically carries much
of the movie’s middle. And while
some have complained that too much of Scrat and his acorn woes is not a
good thing, I still found his and Scratte’s love-hate slapstick
struggles amusing—especially a completely off-the-wall bit where
Scrat’s one-time adored and even deified acorn mourns its newly single
status to the tune of “Alone Again, Naturally.”

There’s also a nice bit of creeping dread going on in Ice
Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
—even more so than the thawed sea monsters
and hungry vultures of Ice Age 2. Buck’s gone all Ahab over Rudy, a
mysterious white Gigantosaurus that terrorizes the underground dino
park. The ongoing hints of
Rudy’s menacing presence are nicely done—not too scary for the
wee ones, but suspenseful and otherworldly enough to keep grown-ups
tuned in.

The production studio Blue
Sky (the Pixar to 20th Century Fox’s Disney) does a fairly amazing job with
the visuals, from the lovely, rich textures of rocks and eggs, to a
genuinely stunning presentation of massive dinosaur weight and size. The Ice Age franchise was the second (after Shrek) to seriously
challenge Pixar’s animation domination, but where Pixar’s ouvre borders
on art, Ice Age is pure entertainment, dolloping on broad
physical comedy and heartwarming messages instead of the sort of
brittle, snarky cynicism that sometimes seems to overwhelm the Shrek

Ice Age 3 has its flaws, many of which I’m sure will become
gratingly clear to parents by spring, as the DVD spins ever on in
the play room. Even with the addition of the dinos and Buck, things
can’t help but feel a bit retreaded–and you can certainly question the need for a third Ice Age, other than the obvious cash grab. And for me, the proceedings
always come to lumbering halt whenever the movie gets too mushily
Manny-centric, especially in the first Buck-free, dino-free third.
(Let’s not just let Manny be Manny. I never cared much for Romano’s
“guys are guys” musings on marriage and family—they aren’t any more
interesting or amusing when they come from the mouth of a mammoth.)

But the Ice Age filmmakers aren’t fools. When the pace starts to
flag, they pop in more Scrat silliness, more of Sid’s sublime buffoonery, more of Buck babbling, and more
thrilling action vistas and sequences. Naturally, the box-office
success of Ice Age 3 means there will be an Ice Age 4… and probably a
5. I suspect the soup is going to keep getting thinner, but this time out,
I still found it palpable, even enjoyable.

Of course, I’m not the one who’s going to
have to hear it playing in the background throughout all of 2010.

2 Responses to “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

  1. micro sd speicherkarten
    Posted on November 2, 2009 at 1:54 am

    This is really great animation movie.It has everything to entertain the whole family.It is as good as other two in the series.

  2. Lisa
    Posted on November 17, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    I liked it the best out of all three, i laughed all the way thru. the kid in me is waiting for the next one :)