ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS
With the voices of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Simon Pegg. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, Mike Thurmeier. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and peril. 94 minutes.
REVIEW BY DANIEL M. KIMMEL
In the current world of Hollywood feature animation, there’s Pixar (“Up,” “Wall*E”) and then there’s everyone else. Among the rest of the pack it is possible to make distinctions. DreamWorks Animation (“Shrek,” “Monsters vs. Aliens”) does consistently good work. Then there’s Blue Sky Studios.
Of their five features, three have been part of the “Ice Age” series, the first two of which managed to do well at the box office due in large part because they were released against a minimum amount of competition. ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS is playing in the big time, coming out for the Fourth of July weekend following “Transformers” with the new “Harry Potter” film still in the offing.
It’s always been a mystery why the “Ice Age” films have better reputations than they deserve. The animation is impressive only if one ignores Pixar and DreamWorks. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing extraordinary either. It’s only in comparison to low-rent animation like last year’s “Space Chimps” that you appreciate what Blue Sky accomplishes. This time it’s in 3D and, as with other recent examples (including “Up”), it’s a gimmick that adds little to the proceedings.
The original “Ice Age” introduced three misfits voiced by some of the whiniest, most annoying performers around. Manny (Ray Romano) is a lumbering wooly mammoth. Sid (John Leguizamo) is an impulsive sloth, while Diego (Denis Leary) is a cranky saber-toothed tiger. The second film added a love interest for Manny named Ellie (Queen Latifah) among other characters. Having survived the Ice Age and the “thaw,” they’re now presented with the “dawn of the dinosaurs.”
Hold on. Dinosaurs were gone after the Ice Age so how can we be at the “dawn?” Simple. The characters discover a strange underground world that extends for miles in all directions, seemingly has its own sun, and where dinosaurs still live. That’s where Sid and the three raptor babies he helped hatch have been taken by its mother. So the rest of the crew goes after him, aided by Buck (Simon Pegg), a weasel adventurer. Just to make matters more complicated, Ellie is pregnant.
Oddly, this abundance of plot livens up the silly proceedings considerably. This is easily the best of the three “Ice Age” films. Those who complain about the feeble jokes and contrived situations should be forced to watch the first two films and defend them. Even the character who is the best thing about the whole series, the prehistoric squirrel Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge), gets a more involved storyline in his never ending pursuit of that acorn when a rival/potential love interest emerges in Scratte (Karen Disher). However, parents of very young ones should be aware that some of the dinosaur sequences are a bit scary.
Saying this third “Ice Age” is an improvement over its predecessors is not the same as saying it’s a film that anyone over the age of 12 needs to see. Whereas you don’t need a kid to see “Up,” you don’t need to see “Ice Age” without one.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.