The third film in the trilogy is superior to the awful second, but doesn’t have the heart and all around quality of the first film in the series; and it utilizes the use of 3-D fairly well in a couple of key action scenes.
Diego, Manny, and Sid are all living together in there own unique little herd among some of the other animals in the valley that are still hanging around after the last films inconsequential flood. Manny and Ellie, his mastodon companion, are now expecting and Diego is beginning to feel a little out of place with Manny settling down and the feeling that he is loosing his edge as a saber toothed tiger. Sid in the meanwhile discovers a set of eggs in a cave under an ice sheet the he accidentally broke throw. Sid’s desire to be a parent after seeing Manny’s happiness encourages him to hatch the eggs and it turns out that he has himself a set of three dinosaurs. Diego decides to head off on his own and leave the pack just before Sid’s newest children’s real mother shows up in the valley to take back her babies and in the process takes Sid back as well from where she came from. Manny, Ellie, Diego and company all decide to head after him into the cave and discover that there is a dinosaur jungle underneath the ice and valley they have been living on for years. Their adventure leads them into the path of Buck, a rouge weasel, and he promises to lead them along the path and help them avoid the threats that are inherent to the land.
The film works so much better then the previous because there is an actual plot and goal to the picture that is more substantial then a looming flood. The search for Sid is a rather simple plot device but it gives us a goal to move forward that we care about. But the film works the best when Buck is on the screen and Simon Pegg is getting to have a blast in the character. The possum brothers are thankfully more reserved and in the background in this film allowing for the comedy to be less childish and a little more grown up. But don’t take that for granted as the film is still for sure a kid’s movie.
There are still a number of silly kid moments and the story is geared towards a younger audience. The action is very well done and the 3-D makes all of these scenes pop with more success than Monsters vs. Aliens. Add to this some relatively quick pacing and the film will keep you engaged for the most part with the surprisingly sub-par Scrat vignettes not playing nearly as well as they did in the previous films.
One just wonders how the film can’t put together less then an hour of quality film. Between the action scenes and the Scrat stuff, the writers really only have to come up with about fifty minutes of quality story. Now, what they come up with is ok, but it isn’t as engaging as the first film and there isn’t nearly the amount of heart and compassion for these characters as there was in that one. With the quality of action in this picture and the introduction of a fun character like Buck, if they could have just got the story to a higher level this could have been a pretty good to great family film. Instead they decided to still pander to the kids rather then respect them and they are left with an entertaining but average film.
The voice work in the film also feels rather dialed in and sub par outside Pegg and Leguizamo as Sid. Leary is ok as Diego, with little to actually do, but Romano and Latifah as our mastodon heroes are just rather dull and bland. Thankfully, Pegg is stealing every scene with the search party and in Diego’s one scene alone Bill Hader is great as some potential prey for the cat.
In the end, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is solid family entertainment that could have been a lot more. Filled with some great characters set up in the first film, the filmmakers at Blue Sky have failed to really grow any of them and give them depth over the course of the two sequels. Still, kids will enjoy it quite a bit, and adults will enjoy the action that goes along with enough jokes that you will at least get a little kick out of. Not a major success by any means, but a huge step in the right direction for the series after an abysmal second act and hopefully they can find us a richer story for the already in the works sequel.
ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS is a C