At The Picture Show
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
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
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