Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
July 2009

Showing its 'Age'

The 'Ice Age' series comes of age, finds its comfort level right in the middle

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
20th Century Fox
Director: Carlos Saldanha and Mike Thurmeier
Screenplay: Michael Berg, Peter Ackerman, Mike Reiss and Yoni Brenner
Starring: The voices of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott and Josh Peck
Rated PG / 1 hour, 34 minutes
(out of four)

Quality and quantity aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but the Ice Age series could certainly make you think otherwise. In fact, the two current animated franchises with the longest legs - this and the Shrek saga - seem to be least worthy of the distinction.

Ice Age, from Blue Sky Animation, seemed to run its course after one movie, while DreamWorks' Shrek property managed two quality entries before following them up with the abysmal Shrek the Third - and yet still continues to churn titles out, with the fourth one due out next spring.

It's a testament to the patience of Pixar that it has waited 11 years to make a second sequel to its massively popular Toy Story - and that even the long-rumored Incredibles follow-up has yet to get off the ground. If and when it ever does, we can be confident that it will have been worth the wait. You can't rush quality.

Quantity is a different story - and if that's how 20th Century Fox wants to play it, so be it. But after the letdown of Ice Age 2: The Meltdown on the heels of the amusing original, the material was already wearing thin even before the series' newest release, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

And it shows. The third film, while not completely unsuccessful, nonetheless shows the wear and tear of characters who have run their course. In fact, Dawn of the Dinosaurs only really comes to life with the introduction of a new character, a categorically insane, Rambo-esque weasel named Buck (voiced by Simon Pegg). He injects the plot with a much-needed shot in the arm, but can't exactly save the film from itself.

The mismatched trio of Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) remains the centerpiece of the story, but those three can no longer carry it. Ditto the perennially acorn-chasing squirrel, Scrat, which at first plays like a clever way to break up the plot and let things breathe but eventually just gets tiresome - particularly a sequence at the end, when the film is already essentially over.

Whatever novelty these characters had seven years ago has been replaced by a sense of monotony. The plot of Dawn of the Dinosaurs feels similarly worn - the filmmakers have fallen back on the old "we're having a baby" prototype. The expecting are none other than Manny and Ellie (Queen Latifah), and their pending foray into parenthood has, yawn, altered the group dynamic with Diego and Sid forever.

Diego undergoes an existential crisis and leaves his friends to find his own way, while Sid gets jealous and decides to have some offspring of his own - in the form of three dinosaur eggs that he finds and decides to keep. Naturally, this is a bad idea - something Sid discovers firsthand when mommy T-Rex finds out.

When Sid disappears, it's up to all his old buddies, yawn, to rescue him. Only when Buck shows up as our heroes' guide through the foreboding jungle does the movie pick up any steam. The character is a delightfully absurd self-parody, a mercenary haunted by both his past and a bout of schizophrenia. He's completely out of place for a movie like this, and thus completely right.

If everything in Dawn of the Dinosaurs were as inspired, we might have had something. Then again, the studio knows a cash cow when it sees one - inspiration never enters into the equation.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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