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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

The End of a Franchise

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the third film in the Ice Age franchise that began seven years ago is, despite the success of its predecessors, a bland and unengaging film that would be forgettable if not for the 3D that’s become the standard for family-oriented animated films. With 3D added into the mix, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs may be watchable, but the dearth of original ideas puts the movie at the back of the animated pack.

In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Manny the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) and his mate, Ellie (Queen Latifah), are expecting their first child. Ellie keeps her cool but Manny doesn’t, attempting to “kid-proof” the melting forest they live in. Diego (Denis Leary), a saber-toothed tiger, thinks he’s lost his “edge” living among herbivores. Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), the “Rodney Dangerfield” of the Ice Age franchise, can’t get any respect and feels ignored by Manny and Ellie.

Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck), Ellie’s possum “brothers” are also around, mostly in the background, making minor amounts of mischief. When Sid discovers three dinosaur eggs hidden in an underground tavern, he decides to adopt them as their own. When the eggs hatch, the three dinosaurs treat Sid like their mother until, that is, their dinosaur mother emerges to reclaim her children from a vast underground cavern.

With Sid also taken into the cavern by the dinosaur mother, Manny, Ellie, and Diego attempt to save him. Almost immediately, they encounter Buck (Simon Pegg), an adventure-seeking one-eyed, eye-patch-wearing weasel obviously modeled on Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean and Captain Ahab from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (instead of a white whale, Buck’s obsessed with the giant carnivore who took his eye and maybe even his sanity). Buck offers to help Manny, Ellie, and Diego find Sid as long they follow his rules (which primarily focus on following his lead). Scrat, the saber-toothed, nut-obsessed squirrel finds his way into the underground cavern, this time battling Scratte (Karen Disher), a wily female squirrel just as obsessed as he is about nuts.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is actually the third film this summer centered on a “Lost World” (Up and Land of the Lost being the other two), an improbable world where the rules of evolution have been put on hold, where mammals and dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures long thought extinct, exist side by side, an idea “borrowed” from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot and At the Earth’s Core (each adapted for the big screen at various times). The lack of originality extends to the once-fresh, now-stale humor that’s only fitfully livened up by Buck’s presence and his off-kilter behavior.

Whatever its weaknesses, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs benefits from the casual chemistry between the leads, accomplished primarily through voice work (with a little help from the animators), and the polished animation from Blue Sky Studios. Over three Ice Age films, Blue Sky has perfected everything from Manny and Ellie’s wooly hair to Sid’s odd coloration. Working with dinosaurs gave Blue Sky the opportunity to expand their skill set, from the prehistoric fauna to the not-quite-extent herbivores and carnivores that populate the underground cavern. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs also benefits from the 3D used to add depth to the detailed backgrounds, especially the underground cavern. Unfortunately, three net positives aren’t enough to offset the one major negative: a tired, clichéd storyline. After three visits to the Ice Age world, it might be time for Blue Sky to retire while they’re behind.