Written by Caballero Oscuro
Quick, which animated film completely dominated the other at the box office this summer: Up or Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs? Easy answer? Not so fast.
One of the biggest box office stories this year was the stunning worldwide success of the latest Ice Age movie. That’s worldwide success, not so much in the U.S. For some reason, the rest of the world really loves the Ice Age critters even though they’re largely viewed as a second-tier property here at home. Sure, its nearly $200M domestic haul is nothing to sneeze at and likely allowed it to fully recoup its production budget, but compared to its nearly $700M foreign take it’s a mere pittance. So what’s the deal here? How did this movie take in nearly double the global box office of critical darling Up?
Well, to put it bluntly, it’s likely that the Ice Age gang appeals to lowest common denominator audiences, and that’s not just referring to the kids. There’s no challenging concept to comprehend here, unlike the impossible to classify and completely original Up. There’s the comfort of familiarity with well-established characters and situations. There’s also the dinosaur factor this time around, and let’s face it: the common man loves the dinos. However, their broad appeal is still somewhat perplexing. The primary characters are such drab, unimaginative designs that the nearly 15-year-old original Toy Story still puts them to shame, and their characterizations aren’t much stronger, with only the speechless Scrat providing any truly memorable moments. In short, they’re kinda boring stars, but they’re apparently some kind of global cinematic comfort food.
In the latest adventures of Sid the sloth, Manny the mammoth, Diego the sabertooth, and Scrat the…scrat, the gang travels to a hidden underground world filled with dinosaurs. Their prime motivating factor is their search for Sid, who finds himself abducted by a dino mommy after he foolishly tries to adopt her temporarily abandoned kids. While in the new world, the gang meets a swashbuckling new character named Buck (Simon Pegg) who aids them in their search while concurrently continuing his hunt for a legendary white dino (thanks, Moby Dick). With that slight principal plot in play, the rest of the movie is fleshed out with subplots involving Manny and his wife Ellie’s impending childbirth, Diego’s attempt to get his ferocious groove back, and Scrat’s relationship with a beguiling female named Scratte. As usual, Scrat brings the comic relief as wholly unrelated bumpers in between the other plots, and this time around his relationship with Scratte provides new comedic possibilities in his never-ending quest for the elusive nut.
The trip to the dino world is a welcome change from the dull icy environs of the first two films as it allows for a tremendous color palette and a much more immersive and expansive experience. The initial entry into the dino world is truly awe-inspiring as the huge and lush vista explodes in a rainbow of prehistoric flora and fauna. The backgrounds are much improved from the prior installments and almost function as another character, completely drawing viewers into the land of the dinosaurs. Here’s hoping they find a way to revisit this world or melt the above-ground ice in the inevitable next installment to continue this wealth of scenery. The film’s stories may not be memorable, but you’ll likely enjoy the ride through this fully realized prehistoric world.
The single-disc DVD is almost entirely bereft of bonus features with the exception of trailers and a commentary track. However, Fox follows the recent animation trend of releasing the film in an expanded edition with a second self-contained bonus DVD, in this case entitled The Scrat Pack. Don't let the title fool you, as there's precious little Scrat action, with only two previously released shorts "Gone Nutty" and "No Time for Nuts" continuing his adventures. The rest of the disc is padded with featurettes on the new characters Buck, Scratte, and the lost world of the dinos, along with older content clearly produced for the previous film in the series that shows how to draw Scrat, gives a behind the scenes peek at his vocal recording sessions, and unveils inane video footage of a modern-day discovery of his frozen remains. On the upside, there are also three somewhat entertaining Flash animation games available when playing the disc in a computer: pinball, a shell game, and an airborne quest for nuts that mirrors a sequence in the new film.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is available on October 27th in three physical forms: single DVD, combo DVD with "The Scrat Pack", and combo Blu-ray/DVD with digital copy.