"Ice Age 3" breathes new life into franchise

July 07, 2009|By BOB GARVER / Special to The Herald-Mail

There are two, big, smelly, woolly mammoths in the room that might keep you from enjoying "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs." The first is that dinosaurs were extinct millions of years before Manny, Diego, Scrat and the other characters in the movie series would have been around. The second is that the first two "Ice Age" movies weren't very good.

The room where those mammoths reside is the theater box office. They are there to discourage you from buying a ticket. I advise you to hold your nose, brush past them, buy a ticket and go into a different room - the one where the movie is actually shown.

There you will be treated to a highly enjoyable family-friendly adventure. Best of all, the only mammoths in the room are the ones up on the screen.

The solution to the first issue is a simple suspension of disbelief. This is a cartoon with talking animals. Are we really going to let a gap of 65 million tears be "too much"? Also, the movie has an explanation: the dinosaurs have been living underground. So there.


As for the second issue, it has been three years since 2006's poorly-received "Ice Age: The Meltdown." The people at Fox must have studied some of the much-better Pixar movies in that time, and made sure that they held their animated offerings to a higher standard.

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" isn't Pixar quality, but it does represent a world of improvement for the franchise.

Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano) and his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) are about to welcome their first child. Their pal Diego the Saber-tooth Tiger (Denis Leary) thinks that this will break up their circle of friends, so he plans to leave their herd. Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) wants to be included, so he tries to start a family of his own. He finds three abandoned eggs, which turn out to be adorable little dinosaurs. Mama Dino wants her babies back, so she pulls Sid and the kids into the underground World Of The Dinosaurs. Manny, Ellie, Diego and some opossums take the rest of the movie to rescue Sid.

Many animated sequels introduce new characters to the mix, and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" doesn't disappoint. In addition to the dinosaurs, we get a one-eyed weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg), an excellent addition to the team. He's been stuck in Dinosaur Land for years, and has an expert knowledge of the scary world. Unfortunately, being the sole mammal in a land of reptiles has caused him to go crazy with solitude. He always knows what he's doing, but he doesn't always know how to treat new friends. Still, his mix-ups usually lead to hilarious results.

Of course, no discussion of any "Ice Age" movie would be complete without a mention of Scrat. He's an acorn-crazed nut of a prehistoric squirrel. All he wants to do with his life is get ahold of an acorn, but fate always has other plans. For his third film, Scrat gets some competition for the acorn in a female squirrel named Scratte. They fight over the acorn and fall in love with each other and they do it all without any dialogue.

The film's action sequences are inspired. Some of them take place in bubbles, on trees, on vines, in laughing gas and on cliffs. Most of the jokes land, although I'm sorry to report that the filmmakers can't resist sneaking in a few smutty ones for adults. Still, if you've already taken the kids to see the superior "Up," "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" is a worthy summer successor.

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" is rated PG for some mild rude humor and peril. Its run time is 94 minutes.

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