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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Sure To Be Taught In All Science Classes In President Palin's America"
1 stars

As I have pointed out in this space several times in the last few months, 2009 is turning out to be a banner year in regards to feature-length animated films thanks to the appearance of such amazing works as “Azur & Asmar,” “Coraline,” “Sita Sings the Blues” and “Up,” not to mention the arrival of “Ponyo,“ the latest work from Japanese animation master Hiyao Miyazaki, in August. These were all films that were made not because the filmmakers were hoping to ride on the coattails of the popularity of another film or because it could potentially sell millions of dollars worth of toys, Happy Meals and other such junk--they were made because the people behind them had intriguing stories to tell and visually astonishing ways in which to help relate them. Although I can’t imagine any situation in which the likes of “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” could have ever come across as fresh and unique--it is, after all, the continuation of the enormously popular “Ice Age” (2002) and “Ice Age: The Meltdown” (2006)--the fact that it is coming out after those aforementioned films only highlights what a creatively bankrupt exercise it really is. Instead of finally trying to do something new and interesting with the material, the filmmakers are instead content to give viewers nothing that they haven’t seen before in the previous installments and even those who enjoyed those are going to come away from this one feeling bored and disappointed.

Set sometime after the adventures of “The Meltdown,” very few of which spring easily to mind these days, the film picks up as our heroes--mopey mastodon Manny (Ray Romano), surly saber-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and contradictorily excitable sloth Sid (John Leguizamo)--find themselves at a crossroads regarding their lives. Manny is about to have his first child with fellow mastodon Ellie (Queen Latifah) and is all nervous and neurotic about the idea of impending fatherhood and keeping his child safe from the dangers of the world. Feeling left out and worrying that he has begun to lose his killer instinct, Diego decides that it would be best for him to just go off into the wilds for good. Sid, on the other hand, decides that is Manny can be a father, he can be a mother and appropriates a trio of eggs that he stumbles upon in order to make that happen. As you can probably surmise from the subtitle, the eggs hatch forth baby dinosaurs and when their actual mother, a T-Rex, comes to claim them, she takes Sid along as well.

Under normal circumstances, the disappearance of a character as annoying as Sid would instigate long and lusty bacchanals in which all of the other characters would be able to celebrate the cessation of their seemingly unending nightmare. Alas, since I didn’t get the job of writing “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” Manny and Diego join up to rescue him and discover a hitherto unknown world beneath the ice filled with lethal dinosaurs. To help guide them through this strange new world, they enlist the aid of Buck (Simon Pegg), a fearless weasel who knows his way around the area, knows how to find and rescue Sid and yet doesn’t seem to realize that the last dinosaurs were extinct long before the real ice age began. Oh yeah, interspersed throughout all of this are the continuing misadventures of hapless squirrel-like thing Scrat (Chris Wedge) and his unending pursuit of a singularly slippery acorn--this time, the hunt is made trickier by the presence of a female squirrel-like thing who is also in pursuit of the acorn and who isn’t above utilizing her feminine wiles, such as they, are, to get what she wants.

Watching “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” I found myself reminded of none other than “Shrek the Third.” Like that blockbuster, it was a film whose very existence was based more on the fact that the first two movies made a bajillion dollars each than because it still had a story to tell. Like that film, it resists the urge to toy with the formula and instead consists entirely of bits that have worked before--animals sliding wildly down mountains and ice shelves that appear to have been put there by a prehistoric water park designer, heartfelt discussions about the importance of friendship conducted by animals that theoretically should have devoured each other long before the bonding process could have had a chance to begin and the endless hi-jinks involving Scrat and his damn acorn, a running gag that was fitfully amusing two movies ago but which now plays like a lesser Road Runner cartoon sans the nuance and character development. Yes, they have thrown a few new things into the mix but since they are never integrated into the material, they just feel like needless additions. The dinosaurs are just a faceless opponent and the encounters that our heroes have with them are so innocuous that they make the ones in “Land of the Lost” look thrilling by comparison. The weasel character is a non-starter as well--it is just another bland addition to a menagerie that was already on the overloaded side and not even the usually reliable Pegg is able to get many laughs with him.

And yes, this is the latest animated film to embrace the wonderful world of 3-D technology and no, it doesn’t help matters much. Now that the initial buzz regarding the return of 3-D has burned off, it is time to look at from a more critical perspective, especially in regards to animation. In certain cases, such as the revamped version of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and the gorgeously creepy “Coraline,” the process has added enormously to their ultimate cinematic impact. In other cases, such as “Monsters Vs. Aliens” or “Battle for Terra” or even “Up,” the 3-D effects have not added much to the end product--in fact, they have taken away from it by having their colorful visual styles tamped down somewhat when seen through those polarized lenses. In fact, I actually went back to see “Up” in its 2-D version and vastly preferred it for exactly this reason. Not surprisingly, “Ice Age” never bothers to do anything interesting or inventive with the format--it doesn’t even have the energy to throw unusual stuff at the camera--and as it goes on, you begin to get the sneaking suspicion that the only reason it was made that way was so that theaters could charge an extra $3 a head per ticket.

And yes, given the popularity of the first two films in the series, I have no doubt that there will be many tickets sold for “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (at least until the arrival of the new Harry Potter film, that is). However, will any of the millions that will surely be turning out for it actually wind up liking it? Well, little kids will probably get a kick out of it because of the silly slapstick and reasonably quick pace--of course, most of them will probably be equally jazzed by the concession stand offerings. Older kids, even those who saw and enjoyed the previous films, are likely to have outgrown it by now and will probably find the whole thing too juvenile for their refined tastes. As for the grown-ups, they will probably enjoy it to the degree that it keeps their kids quiet and occupied for 90-odd minutes while they zone out in air-conditioned comfort. On the other hand, my guess is that by the time it comes to its weary climax, many of them will be silently praying for the arrival of a giant comet to put an end to the series once and for all.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18125&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/01/09 00:00:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/14/13 Homo habilis I'd rather have my face smashed in by an Ankylosaurus than watch this money grab again 1 stars
7/21/09 Gummby3 I laughed just as much as the kids. 5 stars
7/03/09 Kermit Crissey kids will love it 4 stars
7/02/09 Ming I enjoy watching this film. Its fun and entertaining 4 stars
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  01-Jul-2009 (PG)
  DVD: 27-Oct-2009


  DVD: 27-Oct-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Carlos Saldanha

Written by
  Michael Berg
  Peter Ackerman

  Ray Romano
  John Leguizamo
  Denis Leary
  Queen Latifah

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