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Movie Review: Ice Age – Dawn of the Dinosaurs

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Several years ago, we saw a ragtag group of prehistoric critters band together to save a baby. They came together for a common goal despite their rather obvious differences, including the fact that one of them is a predator to the others (a saber-toothed tiger). In the end, they saved the baby and ended up forming an odd family among themselves.

Four years later the non-traditional herd were making a go of it as the Ice Age was in full swing, until they discovered the Ice Age was coming to an end and a rush of water threatens their valley. They were able to come through that relatively unscathed. Now they are back and I am sure you are wondering just what they could be faced with now. All right, maybe not, but I am going to tell you anyway: dinosaurs. That's right, after finding humans and surviving the impending end of the Ice Age, they have to contend with dinosaurs!

The first Ice Age was an enjoyable, family-centric romp, nothing classic and probably not deserving of a sequel. As we all know, a sequel was made, and it proved to me that they should have stopped after the first as its story was dull and its runtime was padded with sequences featuring Scrat the saber-toothed squirrel and his endless quest to possess a single acorn. Unfortunately, it proved to be a box office success, all but guaranteeing a third film would be made. It is here, and in an attempt to ensure a sustained level of interest the currently popular 3D process has been employed. Finally, proving that I may actually be a part of the problem, I went to the theater, got my glasses, and sat down to watch it.

After the screening was over, I slowly walked out of the theater, disposing of my emptied bag of unsalted popcorn (the only way to go), and depositing my 3D glasses in the recycling bin as I went. On my face was the barest hint of a smile. I walked secure in my belief that the gimmick of the Ice Age has run its course, that I am still impressed with the RealD 3D process, and that this movie was an improvement on the lackluster second part. Still, I think I would have felt more rewarded had I seen Up again.

As Dawn of the Dinosaurs opens, we catch up with our main characters reaching important turning points in their lives, and it sounds suspiciously like any random episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are doing their part to repopulate the mammoth population and are expecting their first child, Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) feels left out and has dreams of being a parent himself, and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) believes he is losing his edge living around what should be his dinner and wants to regain that hunter's instinct he feels he has lost. Meanwhile, Scrat continues to track down that elusive acorn, only to find love and competition in a female version of himself called Scratte (in the ads, these critters don't speak and rarely interact with our main characters).

It had to happen at some point. This oddball collection of incompatible critters were bound to reach a point where they would drift apart. It is up to this movie to bring that drama to life in a comedy about why they came together in the first place and how they will always mean something to each other, but told in comedic fashion, of course.

Sid, feeling left out and wanting to be a parent, wanders off and discovers three eggs, apparently abandoned, and decides to bring them back to the herd and raise them himself. Of course, this turns out to be a terrible idea as they turn out to be dinosaur eggs and when they hatch, the babies wreak havoc, which increases exponentially when mommy (a T. Rex) arrives in search of her missing young. She collects them, along with Sid, and heads back down through the crack in the ice that had initially revealed the egg.

Manny, Ellie, Diego, and the possums, Crash and Eddie (introduced in the second film), head into the crack in an attempt to rescue their kidnapped friend. Along the way they meet Buck (Simon Pegg), a hunt-hardened weasel who is in search of the giant dinosaur that took his eye (his personal Moby Dino). He is a crazy fellow who may be the only way our heroes will be able to navigate this lush underground world and its many dangers.

Comedy and adventure ensue as Manny and the gang hunt down Sid and avoid the big bad killer dinosaur. It turns out to be mildly amusing, a distinct step up from the last one, but still pretty forgettable in the big picture.

The reasons to watch this movie are three-fold, and while it is an argument for the film, it is not necessarily a compelling one. First is John Leguizamo, whose work as Sid is pretty dang funny. Second is Scrat — his silent film-style antics have been the highlight of the series, always with the right amount of zaniness. Third is Simon Pegg. It doesn't seem to matter what this guy does, he steps up to the plate and delivers. His Buck is insane and rather fun. To a lesser extent, the animation has improved with each successive film, and the 3D is employed well and not so much as a gimmick, but a tool to add depth to the image.

Bottom line. Despite being a step up from the second film, I cannot throw my support behind this one, as it still feels like a franchise stretched past its expiration date. The kids will like it, no doubt about that, but most seem to like Up too, which is vastly superior. I think Pixar may have spoiled CG animation for me. Still, I would take any Ice Age movie over the likes of Space Chimps.

Mildly Recommended.

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