Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs

Director    Carlos Saldanha, Mike Thurmeier
Starring    John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Simon Pegg, Ray Romano
Release    3 JUL (US) 3 JUL (UK)    Certificate U
3 stars


1st July 2009

The first Ice Age was one of the first indicators that Pixar had some serious contenders in the animation department. Ice Age: The Meltdown came along soon after and proved that the busybodies at Fox were still a threat with a much improved sequel. Now, the whole gang is back for a third instalment of the animated franchise, taking advantage of the tech du jour, namely 3D animation.

With two crowd-pleasing sequels in the can, Dawn Of The Dinosaurs doesn't have to waste too much time introducing any characters, but does set up where each character is in their lives. Manny and Ellie the Mammoths are having a baby; Diego the Sabre-Tooth Tiger is starting to lose his hunting edge; Sid the Sloth feels left out by everyone; and then there's Scrat, still chasing acorns. This neat update is handled in a couple of scenes, before the story proper ensues.

The premise is, of course, utterly absurd, but if the animators want us to believe that dinosaurs exist in a giant tropical paradise lost under the ice, then who are we to argue? Just go along for the ride. Upon discovering said lost world, Sid manages to upset a big beastie by stealing a few eggs and when Mummy comes to claim her young she sloth-naps Sid. On the rescue trail, the gang meet eye-patched Weasel (Pegg) who fancies himself a bit of a Dino-Hunter. Pegg's appearance is a nice touch, though his 'British' accent is a bit much - shouldn't actual Brits be able to do the accent properly?

Other new characters mainly consist of the dinos themselves (who don't speak) and a love interest for Scrat, which helps pad out his extended cameo. Scrat has been the main draw for fans of the franchise over the years, but part of his charm is his sparing screen-time and the simplicity of his desires: acorns, acorns, acorns. The inclusion of a love interest is smirk-inducing at first, but it's protracted far too long. Ultimately, the Scrat plot-strand becomes something akin to that of Wile E. Coyote.

Remember though, this is a kids film; we're basically treated to 90 minutes of characters banging their heads and falling to the ground with a thump. The scope of the film is moderately ambitious and there are some nice visuals as always, but when you've seen one dinosaur paradise you've seen them all. The 3D is a bit of a let down in terms of its worth. There are some rare moments where it works sufficiently (some of the film's quieter moments allow you to focus on the protruding animation), but otherwise it's just characters shaking their arses at you. You'll miss little by catching the 2D version instead.

It's a shame, because the Ice Age voice talent is amiable enough; there's just no mistaking the jokes are running thin. Swish animation is one thing, but a great cinematic experience it is not. Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs is harmless fun for the under elevens and shouldn't alienate too many fans of the franchise, but after three so-so movies, there won't be many excited adults among the ticket-holders.

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