Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

iceagedawnofthedinosaursposterstarring Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, and Simon Pegg
written by Peter Ackerman and Michael Berg & directed by Carlos Saldanha and Mike Thurmeier
Rated PG for some mild rude humor and peril.

Feeling a bit left out because mammoths Manny (Romano) and Ellie (Latifah) are having a baby, Sid the Sloth (Leguizamo) inadvisably adopts three abandoned eggs which hatch into baby dinosaurs. Soon, an angry mother dinosaur appears to reclaim her offspring, and departs with babies and Sid in tow. Determined to rescue their friend, Manny, Ellie, and the rest follow the trail into a lush underground jungle full of dangerous dinosaurs and a deranged but bush-savvy weasel named Buck (Pegg).

Something must be said and gotten out of the way up-front: There was nothing special or well-done enough about the original Ice Age movie to even remotely justify one, and now two, sequels. There never was and still is not any really worthwhile story to be told involving these characters in this setting. Taking that as a given, it can be said that Dawn of the Dinosaurs is not significantly better or worse than its predecessors. Fans of the series will be happy. The mediocre standard of entertainment continues.

Each of the three main characters (Manny, Diego, and Sid) has a sort of subplot/character arc, but they are fairly weak. Manny, who talks more and more like Romano’s character from “Everybody Loves Raymond,” is adjusting to the thought of becoming a father. Diego feels that he is losing his edge. Sid struggles with motherhood. Oh, and then there’s Scrat (you know, the odd little squirrel who is eternally chasing that surprisingly elusive acorn). He has a new love interest/rival in Scratte, a female who has apparently evolved the ability to glide.

It’s rather dull, forgettable stuff for the first third or so, and then a bright spot arrives in the form of Buck the weasel. His presence in the movie might be a sign of desperation from writers who have run out of ideas for the main characters (and they have), but he injects just enough zany randomness into the film to make it all sort of work, or at least keep you laughing enough that you don’t notice it doesn’t work.

I will say this for it: unlike some of the films that have been released in 3D since the new craze began, the extra dimension is put to good use here. In fact, reflecting back on the previous installments it occurred to me that this is a franchise that ought to have been in 3D all along. Much of the films’ action revolves around set pieces where the characters are falling, flying or sliding through things. In this case there is a particularly nice sequence involving a rescue aboard a pterodactyl.

The chief fault, aside from a general sense of the unremarkable, is the fact that the movie doesn’t even pretend to resolve with any sort of finality. It is trapped in the doleful certainty that more sequels will follow (rumors of a fourth Ice Age movie in production are already circulating). The presumption of a sequel ruins the best gag in the film: a hilarious sequence that seems to perfectly wrap up the epic, three-movie story of Scrat and his acorn. But the filmmakers can’t just leave it at that because Scrat’s interludes are a central component of the franchise. I guess that’s sort of the central problem with the entire concept from the outset. It wants to be marketable more than it wants to be good.

~ by Jared on July 1, 2009.

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