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  • U
  • Action, Adventure
  • 2009
  • 96 mins

Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs

Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs

Synopsis

Yabba-dabba-do! This third instalment in the Ice Age franchise gives animated pre-history a new dimension

Critic's Review

"We've been living above an entire world," declares heavily pregnant mammoth Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah), "and we didn't even know it."

It is not just that, in its third instalment, the Ice Age franchise has suddenly discovered animation's glasses-enhanced third dimension, but also that there lies hidden beneath those icy tundra a lost tropical ecosystem where dinosaurs have managed to go on living millions of years past their official date of extinction up to the era of the big mammals (and early humans, if one recalls 1992's original Ice Age).

Kids like dinosaurs, and so that is what Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs gives them, after a test-run in Ice Age 2: The Meltdown where two snap-frozen marine reptiles were thawed out by global warming. Sure the lost dinosaur world is a concept that breaches both (pre)history and logic, but it is no more ludicrous than the similar set-up in King Kong (1933), The Land That Time Forgot (1975) or Journey To The Center Of The Earth (2008) - the last of which is also in 3D. And after all, Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs is a children's cartoon where animals talk, and act, like humans, and where a sabre-toothed tiger, a mammoth and a ground sloth are the best of friends. Accusing this film of lacking realism is somehow missing the point.

Still, the effect that the introduction of dinosaurs does have is to dilute two things that made the first two films in the franchise seem so original: the ice age setting and the environmental issues that such a setting made it possible to explore. Once the gang of mammals has entered the underground jungle of the dinosaurs, the title Ice Age becomes entirely redundant. It is like heading The Chronicles Of Narnia with the title 'Twentieth Century' just because that is their starting point. The melting landscape that has been so important to the earlier films loses its menace (and contemporary ecological resonance) once we know that its disappearance will merely expose a ready-made ecosystem beneath. By broadening out the environment in which the characters can have their adventures, the filmmakers risk literally tearing away the very foundations of their original concept, while all the dinosaur action (a T-Rex rampage, giant killer plants, pterodactyls and raptor-like Guanlongs) is over-familiar from countless other 'Jurassic' movies.

The other problem here is the sheer number of principals in the ever-expanding 'herd' of mammals. Once upon a time it was just Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the sabre-tooth (Denis Leary), with acorn-chasing squirrel Scrat (Chris Wedge) providing comic interludes - but now that there is Manny's woolly wife Ellie, a pair of mischievous opossums (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck), new members Buck the swashbuckling weasel (Simon Pegg) and Scratte the lady squirrel (Karen Disher), not to mention a host of dinosaurs and the imminent arrival of a baby mammoth, the character arcs here are spread pretty thin. As for the film's best bits, they tend to be offhand gags or throwaway lines rather than anything integral to the barebones plot. Messages about family and friendship are strictly 2D, while Sid's recurring confusion about gender and even species (he tries to milk a male yak, appoints himself 'single mother' to a trio of newly hatched T-Rexes, and mistakes a girl mammoth for a boy) never seems to have much point to it.

Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs offers just enough laughs to hold together its threadbare quest narrative, lumbers along quickly, and looks great. Children will love it - but when, near the end, Buck declares, "This was fun - we could make it a regular thing", you can almost hear the collective groan coming from the adults at the prospect of yet another sequel with ever-diminishing returns. Of course franchises have to evolve, but Ice Age just seems to be heading backwards.

In a nutshell: Despite the novelty of its 3D visuals and lost world setting, Dawn Of The Dinosaurs pushes the Ice Age franchise ever closer to extinction.

By Anton Bitel

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Simon Pegg, Karen Disher, Denis Leary, Seann William Scott, Ray Romano, Josh Peck, Queen Latifah, Chris Wedge, John Leguizamo
  • Director: Carlos Saldanha, Mike Thurmeier
  • Producer: John C Donkin, Lori Forte
  • Composer: John Powell

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