Rated: PG for some mild rude humor and peril.
Release Date: 2009-07-01
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With each release, Pixar explores new themes and ideas. Meanwhile, animation studios like Fox retread tired “franchises” like Ice Age. Never representative of more than mediocrity from a technical or story-based standpoint, the Ice Age series has reached a new nadir with its third entry. Rather than adding an extra dimension to the entertainment, the decision to release Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 3D merely gives the animators an opportunity to be more slipshod in their design and execution. For the most part, the movie plays out like a demo for the video game, careening from one improbable action sequence to the next. I can see how the challenge of mastering some of these puzzles might be fun in an interactive forum, but they’re deadly dull in a movie.
The story has Manny the Mammoth (voice of Ray Romano) and his mate, Ellie (Queen Latifa), about to embark upon parenthood. Diego the Sabertooth Tiger (Denis Leary), feeling he has lost “it,” elects to leave behind the herd and strike out on his own. And Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) decides that, like Manny, he wants a family of his own. He achieves this goal not by finding a female and doing it the old fashioned way but by discovering three unhatched dinosaur eggs. Soon, he is being followed by three newly hatched T-Rexes, which is okay until a perturbed mother shows up wondering where her babies are. It turns out that there is a lost world of dinosaurs under the ice and, when Mama T-Rex kidnaps Sid and transports him down there, Manny, Ellie, and Diego follow. They are soon joined by a crazy weasel (Simon Pegg) denizen of the underworld who spends his days and nights hunting the biggest, baddest dinosaur of them all: a gargantuan carnivore called “Rudy.”
In the previous Ice Age movies, the best reasons to watch were related to the misadventures of Scrat the Sabertooth Squirrel, the prehistoric equivalent of Wiley Coyote. In Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Scrat is the only reason to watch.
Very little happens over the course of the film. What passes for a “story” is nothing more than a thinly-veiled excuse to incorporate dinosaurs into the proceedings, presumably because they’re popular with little boys.
The most disappointing thing about Dawn of the Dinosaurs is the movie’s look. Everything in this world is bland and generic. There’s no texture in the foreground and no detail in the background. It’s a small step up from Saturday morning cartoon quality. The excuse, I suppose, is that the “3D experience” compensates, but it also mutes the colors and dims the brightness. Dawn of the Dinosaurs looks awful. If I was one of the CGI animators, I’d be embarrassed to be associated with the film. I have seen amateur filmmakers do better work on their Macs.
Like Madagascar and Shrek (both Dreamworks properties), Ice Age is a brand-name and people will see it for that reason alone. Quality doesn’t come into it. It’s another example of something that offers a passable diversion for kids and a restless 90 minutes for the adults who accompany them. The 3D surcharge is a rip-off: the movie doesn’t do anything with the effect and there are even a few instances when it appears to be improperly applied. The best option is to ignore the existence of Dawn of the Dinosaurs altogether and see Up a second time. A repeat viewing of the Pixar film will be more rewarding than a first viewing of the latest Ice Age entry.