Category Archives: Animated Films

The Brave Little Toaster Review

1987’s The Brave Little Toaster is a curious piece of nostalgia. Its theatrical release was practically non-existent, but it became a favorite among many children of my generation on home video. Though The Brave Little Toaster does have some heart to it, its lacking production values have become apparent with age, and some of the film’s darker content seems to greatly contrast with an otherwise kid-friendly tone.

The Brave Little Toaster tells the story of five household appliances: the titular Toaster (Deanna Oliver); Blanky (Timothy E. Day), an electric blanket with a childlike personality; Lampy (Tim Stack), a worry-wart lamp; Kirby (Thurl Ravenscroft), a cantankerous vacuum cleaner; and Radio (Jon Lovitz), who talks in a voice similar to radio broadcasters.

These appliances are at the Summer cabin, with their “master” Rob (Wayne Kaatz) not having visited in some time. The appliances fear they’ve been abandoned, except for Toaster and Blanky, who try to keep hope alive. When the appliances find out the cabin is being sold, they decide to go out on an adventure to find their master.

It’s a really simple story that certainly feels like a precursor to the Toy Story films (many of the leading members of Pixar, including John Lasseter, were among the film’s staff). Though the idea of living appliances just doesn’t have the same emotional resonance as living toys (which do you have fonder memories of; your favorite childhood toy, or your first toaster?). Speaking of toys, it seems kind of odd that the appliances remember Rob playing with them when “the master” was a young boy, as though they fill the role of toys. Why the hell was this kid playing around with toasters?

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. The Brave Little Toaster does have good messages about friendship, sacrifice and hope that help keep the film afloat even in its mirkier moments (such as the sporadic musical numbers, which aren’t particularly memorable).

The adventure the appliances go on is filled with many different characters, both human and inanimate object (the best of which being an old TV, who isn’t simply a television set with knobs for eyes, but actually communicates through a commercial character on the screen). Some of these characters are humorous (such as an air conditioner with the voice of Phil Hartman, doing a Jack Nicholson impression), but the adventure also goes into some darker territory.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a children’s film venturing into darker subject matter (Disney films often feature death, after all), but there’s just something about some of the events of The Brave Little Toaster that greatly clash with the film’s attempted childlike appeal. This is a movie about talking toasters and blankets going on an adventure, after all. But it’s also a film in which the appliances watch as a helpless blender is ripped apart for its batteries.

“It’s just a blender” You might be thinking. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be an issue. But within the context of the film, these appliances are living people, and the way the scene plays out is something of an homage to horror films. For a film that’s definitely aiming at a very young demographic, it’s surprisingly violent in such scenes. Even more notably, the appliances eventually find their way into a junk yard, where they hope to escape before they are crushed to death by a mechanical crusher, all while a bunch of living cars are getting crushed to death, and singing about how worthless their lives were while it’s happening. 

Scenes like this really detract from the film’s charms. Again, I’m all for animated films venturing into more mature elements and subject matter, but The Brave Little Toaster goes from cute and appealing to grizzly and depressing to such a degree that it feels like two different movies.

The 2011 Pixar film Cars 2 suffered a similar problem, catering to a younger crowd, while also including a scene in which one of the cars gets tortured to death. What is it with talking cars and brutality? I have a feeling the filmmakers believe that because the characters are based on inanimate objects, that it doesn’t count. But again, there’s context to be considered. After all, we’re supposed to identify and resonate with these toaster and vacuum characters just like any others, we can’t suddenly think of them as machines when it’s convenient.

It should also be noted that The Brave Little Toaster was made on a limited budget, and it can show in the animation. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to call the animation bad, but I don’t think I would go further than calling it adequate. The animators definitely made the best with what they had, but that can’t completely excuse that there were so many other animated films during the same timespan that were far more visually appealing.

With all this said, I hope I don’t sound entirely dismissive towards The Brave Little Toaster. It does have its charms, the main characters are cute and likable, and it does have good messages for kids (the Toaster is of course the antithesis of everything the nihilistic cars sing about). But the production values show their age and limitations, and I think younger audiences might want to watch a different movie during Toaster’s darker moments.

The Brave Little Toaster is an interesting, nostalgic treat if you grew up with it, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t plenty of better options available in the genre.

 

6.5

Some Scoring Changes (Hopefully for the Last Time)

Being an independent blogger/critic has its ups and downs. On the plus side, you are more freely allowed to tweak your ratings to reflect your changing opinions. On the downside, doing just that risks making your ratings look fickle and wishy-washy.

I personally don’t like changing my ratings, but sometimes (more often than I’d like to admit), I find that in order to keep a level of consistency with my definitions of each score, I have to make exceptions and alter a score for better or worse.

Now is another one of those times, as I’ve changed the scores for a handful of games. Though, hopefully, this will be the last time I make such alterations (though I don’t want to make an absolute statement on that, since I still could make an exception or two).

Keep in mind that if I lower the score for a game or movie, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve grown to dislike the game more (or like it less), but that, upon further evaluation, I think my sentiments and complaints in regards to it are better suited to a different score.

Here are the game’s whose scores I’ve just changed, and my reasons for them.

  • Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble have swapped scores. DKC now ranks at an 8.5, while DKC3 stands at 9.0. When I originally reviewed them, the scores were reversed, but upon thinking more and more about it, DKC3 is the deeper platformer (though my complaints about the music being a massive downgrade for the series still stand). DKC2 still ranks at a perfect 10, however. And that won’t change.
  • Tetris Attack has been lowered from a 9.0 to an 8.5. Again, it’s not that I think any less of it, but I weighed it against another block falling puzzle game that I awarded a 9.0 (Tetris Battle Gaiden), and came to the conclusion that Tetris Attack, while great, is probably better represented as an 8.5 in the falling block puzzle game department.
  • Yooka-Laylee, which I originally gave a score of 8.5, has been slightly lowered to an 8.0. Again, I haven’t suddenly decided that Yooka-Laylee isn’t as good as I initially thought, just that I think – after re-reading my review and assessing my complaints – it fits more into the 8.0 range.
  • Star Fox Zero has been (further) lowered to a 6.5, because of those damn controls.
  • Perhaps most notably of all, Super Mario Maker has gone from a massive 9.5 to a (still fantastic) 9.0. Once again, it’s not that my opinion on the game has changed, I still think Super Mario Maker is, in a lot of ways, one of the best things Nintendo has ever made. If anything, I made this change to further boost what the 9.0 score means. After all, a 9.0 is the third-highest score on my system, and has been represented by such great games as Mega Man 3, Shovel Knight, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Overwatch. That’s a hefty lineup of games right there. Super Mario Maker also perhaps had a few more flaws pointed out in my review than most 9.5s. Though some of these issues have been addressed by Nintendo in patch updates, I still feel changing the score for SMM was the right call. Again, not that I think any less of the game, but if I want to be consistent with my scoring, I felt the change was necessary (I must also repeat that I feel this boosts the prestige of the 9.0 score).
  • I have also changed the scores for two animated films, Finding Dory and Wreck-It Ralph. Both of which were originally given 9.0s, but that I feel are better suited in the 8.5 level (an 8.5 is a great score, so please don’t think that I think any less of these movies).

Well, that’s all the changes I’ve recently made. Now I’m going to try my best to really evaluate if my words and feelings for a game (or movie) are best justified by the score I end up giving it. I don’t like changing my scores, and don’t want to have to change any of them again. So I want to make sure I get it all right the first time. This will be doubly true for games (and movies) rated 9.0 or higher.

In order to help me maintain this consistency, I soon plan to overhaul my Scoring System page, giving more detailed descriptions for each score, and even giving some prime examples of each score for both games and movies (Overwatch and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, for example, seem to be my measuring sticks for the 9.0 score for games). Since I have actually used every rating in my system for games (including one 0/10), I will probably update the page with the video game examples first, with the movie examples following not far behind.

Anyway, sorry for this rant. Hopefully you don’t think any less of my scoring system for my fluctuating feelings, and hopefully I can be more consistent in the future.

An American Tail Review

Back in the 1980s and even into the 1990s, American animated cinema was almost exclusively Disney, with only a handful of smaller features here and there. During this time, however, was one consistent alternative in the form of the films of Don Bluth, which became great successes in their own right. Oftentimes, Don Bluth’s films rivaled – and sometimes surpassed – the success of Disney’s features of the time. Today, Don Bluth’s films hold a strong nostalgic value for many, and among the directors most famous features is An American Tail. On the downside of things, Don Bluth’s movies do not possess the same timeless qualities as the Disney features, and American Tail is no exception.

An American Tail tells the story of the Mousekewitzes, a family of Russian-Jewish mice who plan to immigrate to America after their home is destroyed in an arson attack by the Cossacks and their cats (“there are no cats in America” say the immigrant mice, apparently unaware that they’re the second most-popular pet in the country). Tragedy strikes aboard the boat to America, however, as the Mousekewitz’s young son, Fievel, ends up going overboard during a terrible storm.

Fievel manages to survive, but is orphaned from his family. Unbeknownst to both parties, they both find their way to New York City, with Fievel’s sister still believing him to be alive, despite her parents’ losing hope, and little Fievel trying to reunite with his family. All this while trying to avoid the cats that lurk the streets of New York.

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. This is a movie intended for young kids, and within the first few minutes, we have a family’s house being burned to the ground, a kid being orphaned while his family believes him to be dead, and they’re all trying to avoid being eaten. Geez, what a downer. I certainly have nothing against sadness being present in children’s films, especially since the best such films are those that don’t talk down to their target audience and show children that, sometimes, the world is dark and scary and sad. But An American Tail just feels like it’s stacking tragedy after tragedy on top of each other to manipulate pathos from the audience.

Another issue with An American Tail is that there’s really nothing to its characters. Sure, Fievel is cute and all, but that’s about all there is to say about him. And many of the side characters, like the villainous Warren T. Rat (a cat in disguise as a rat) and Tony Toponi (a streetwise mouse who befriends Fievel) are either completely forgettable or just come off as annoying. One of the few exceptions is Tiger, a kindly fat cat who speaks in the voice of Dom DeLuise who serves as the film’s (much needed) comic relief.

Sure, some would argue that An American Tail is a children’s film, and that you shouldn’t expect more fleshed-out characters, but that kind of argument seems like a defeatist cop-out. There are plenty of children’s films that have enough confidence in their target audience to understand deeper characterization. It’s true that many animated films of the 1980s had a similar approach, and were incredibly simplistic. But just because this issue wasn’t exclusive to An American Tail doesn’t take away its accountability for it.

The sad thing is, this seems to be a recurring issue when revisiting Don Bluth movies. Bluth may have made a number of films that many of us look back on fondly, but their lack of depth and substance only becomes apparent with age. Bluth definitely understood how to direct the animators in creating the visuals for his films, as they tend to be on par with Disney’s animated features of the time in regards to visuals. But Don Bluth’s films don’t seem to understand how to develop characters, and instead just throw a bunch of sad events around cookie cutter characters in an attempt to make us care.

I know, I’m now the villain of many an 80s and 90s kid. Though being born in 1989, I fit right into this same crowd. I myself grew up watching An American Tail, and have many fond memories of it. But An American Tail, like a number of Don Bluth’s other features, seems as underdeveloped in story and characters as it is pretty to look at. I’m afraid nostalgia can’t improve storytelling.

An American Tail is not a bad movie. It’s just a generic and uneventful one. The animation is well made, with the characters moving fluidly and the scenery boasting many intricate details. But the story and characters lack substance (made all the more notable by how the film quickly chickens out of the tragic Jewish parable it hints at in the opening). While I’m a proud US citizen and can greatly appreciate the film’s sense of American optimism, that can’t make up for the pandering sentiment. The songs aren’t particularly memorable, either.

Again, An American Tail could be a whole lot worse. But for a film that so many people swear to be “better than Disney,” there’s really not a whole lot to it. It may be a nostalgic treat for many. Though aside from the animation itself, that might be all it is.

 

5.0

TMNT (2007) Review

TMNT – the strangely titled fourth feature film in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise – is kind of the odd duck in the series. It’s the only fully animated film in the entire TMNT franchise, was produced by the now-defunct Imagi Animation Studios, and is ambiguous as to whether or not it keeps continuity with the three live-action films of the 1990s (there are hints and Easter eggs that imply it does follow those films, with contradictory elements leaving that connection in question). TMNT often seems forgotten in the Ninja Turtles movie lineage – despite just recently becoming a decade old – which is both understandable and a shame.

This is understandable because, despite a genuine effort by Imagi Animation Studios, TMNT is largely forgettable in plot. But it’s a shame because, when it works, TMNT hints that a bright future may have been in store for animated Ninja Turtles films, if such films were allowed to continue.

The story here is that, 3,000 years ago, a warlord named Yeotl discovered a portal to another dimension. The portal granted Yeotl immortality, but at a price: his four generals, whom he loved like brothers, were turned to stone, and thirteen immortal monsters were released from the portal, who proceeded to destroy his army.

Fast-forward to present day New York City, and Yeotl has taken up a new name, Max Winters (Patrick Stewart), a wealthy businessman seeking to undo his immortality, as he’s spent centuries tormented by what his actions did to his friends and his army.

To accomplish this, Winters needs to capture the thirteen monsters who escaped from the portal, and send them back through. There’s an impending alignment of the planets that will allow him to reopen the portal to send the monsters back.

Anyway, Winters has hired April O’Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) – who now owns a company that locates relics for collectors – to retrieve four statues for him; with these statues being his petrified generals from the past. Meanwhile, Winters has also secretly recruited the remnants of the Foot Clan, now lead by the mysterious Karai (Zhang Ziyi), to retrieve the monsters.

All the while, the Ninja Turtles have gone their separate ways in life: Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) has been sent to South America as some kind of vaguely detailed training, where he stops bandits and saves villages. Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) is now an IT operator. Michelangelo (Michael Kelly) is an entertainer at children’s parties (“Cowabunga Carl”). And Raphael (Nolan North) stalks the streets of New York at night as the vigilante “the Nightwatcher.

As you might suspect, the Turtles become involved with all the goings-on with Max Winters’ scheme, though they also have to deal with familial issues, as their separate paths have caused a divide in their brotherhood.

Geez, you think that’s enough build-up?

There are two main issues with the plot: The first, as you’ve probably guessed, is that it’s just too convoluted. There are just too many characters and elements at work for the short running time to know what to do with. In fact, there’s so much going on with the dilemma between the Turtles and Max Winters’ plot, that they barely cross paths until the third act, almost making things feel like two different movies collided with each other.

The other problem is that, because there’s so much going on and not enough time for it all, a number of elements feel underdeveloped or poorly thought-out. It’s one of those movies that will have you asking yourself questions about the film’s finer details as you’re watching it.

One of the big lingering questions is why the thirteen immortal monsters are all suddenly showing up at once in New York City. Perhaps it has something to do with the planets aligning, but that’s never explicitly said. Just what were these monsters doing for three-thousand years?

Another question arrises once Winters reanimates his stone generals. At first they seem like mindless zombies who follow Winters’ orders, in which case it makes sense that he’s still trying to break the curse on them. But later it’s revealed that they can indeed think independently. So does Winters really need to proceed with his plan, seeing as he now has his lost friends, albeit they are now made of stone instead of flesh and blood? Hey, if I waited three-thousand years to see my friends again, I wouldn’t mind too much if they just so happened to be made of stone. Take what you can get.

Okay, so the plot is gobbledygook. That seems to be par for the course with Ninja Turtles films. But TMNT is considerably more serious in tone than the 90s live-action movies, so the nonsense of the plot rings all the louder.

With all of this said, TMNT still has some positives going for it. Though the animation is certainly not on par with the films from bigger studios like Disney and Pixar of the time, it still boasts a stylized look that worked for the material. The voice acting is also pretty solid; and includes Captain America himself, Chris Evans, as Casey Jones, and the late Mako Iwamatsu as Master Splinter in his last film role.

On top of that, the action scenes are well made, with a duel between Leonardo and Raphael being a particular highlight. Though maybe the film should have cut back the number of monsters, since most of them are dealt with via montage, and only a few allow for any full-on fight scenes.

TMNT may not have been the full-blown franchise revival it was hoping to be (as evidenced by the fact that it never got a sequel, and another live-action reboot happened seven years later), but it has enough Ninja Turtle-ness that may make it worth a look for fans (the action scenes are an improvement over the 90s films, and it’s fun to see the Easter eggs that allude to the original trilogy). And unlike Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the original villains introduced here at least feel like they fit in with the franchise.

For fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TMNT can provide some fun. But its murky plot certainly holds it back as a movie in its own right, and unlike the first two 90s films, it lacks the campiness to make it a guilty pleasure.

If nothing else, TMNT is an interesting piece of Turtles history.

 

5.5

Top 10 Films of 2016

Yes, I am extremely late in writing this. You may think “why bother making a top 10 films of 2016 list by this point? We’re more than five months into 2017 now!” Well, this is my site and I can do what I want on it. That’s reason enough for me.

In all serious though, I intended to write this some time ago, but there were a number of 2016 films that I had wanted to see that I didn’t get around to until much later. Now that I’ve seen them, I can write this with a deeper knowledge of 2016 films.

Of course, keep in mind that this is my own personal list. Ergo, my personal taste will probably make this look wildly different than many other lists. For example, I like movies that actually gain an audience and make money  a lot more than professional award committees seem to. Sure, I’m open to liking any movie if I think it’s good (hell, sometimes I like movies that I know are bad, if they provide enough entertainment). But I’m not going to place some critically acclaimed, artsy films just to make me look more “legit.” I like what I like, so that’s what’s going to be here.

As a whole, I don’t think 2016 was as good of a year for movies as 2015, but it still provided some gems. These are said gems that I really liked.

But first, I’d like to give a shoutout to both Dr. Strange and The Founder, both of which I greatly enjoyed and wish I could place on here as well. But top 10 is the tradition, and it’s a perfect number that appeases my OCD. So they have to settle for runners-up spots. Still, one’s a great superhero movie that changes things up by actually including magic (instead of skipping around it like Thor) held together by Benedict Cumberbatch and Mads Mikkelsen. The other is a surprisingly engaging look into the origins of the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant chain, lead by a great performance by Michael Keaton.

Okay, now onto the top 10.

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Your Name Review

Your Name is the 2016 anime film by Makoto Shinkai that took the world by storm. Shinkai’s previous films were successful, but Your Name was on another level entirely, becoming the highest-grossing anime film worldwide, and the fourth highest-grossing film in Japanese history, behind only Disney’s Frozen, James Cameron’s Titanic, and Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The great news is that Your Name is that rare kind of film whose quality actually warrants it’s rabid success.

The film tells the story of two Japanese high school students: Mitsuha Miyazumi and Taki Tachibana. Taki is a boy living in Tokyo who works at an Italian restaurant. He’s polite and kind-hearted, but has trouble expressing himself. Mitsuha is a small-town girl, the daughter of the mayor, who is tired of both her small-town life and being in her father’s shadow.

As the movie begins, however, neither Mitsuha or Taki are themselves, as they’ve each awakened in the other’s body.

At first, neither Taki nor Mitsuha know what to do in the situation, and think it’s some kind of dream. But as the day goes on, they manage to grow more accustomed to the bizarre situation, and even begin to enjoy it. The next day, both teenagers return to their respective bodies, but the strange phenomenon continues to happen every so often (a few days a week, they mention in one scene).

From here, Taki and Mitsuha – who were previously unaware of each other’s existence – begin to learn more about each other. They each manage to get a hold of the other’s cellphone number, with which they inform each other of their respective schedules, and set a list of guidelines for how to interact with their respective friends and family (which becomes increasingly important, as their memories of the other begin to disappear once they return to their own bodies).

Some liberties are taken by the two, of course, with Mitsuha improving Taki’s social life and setting up a date with his crush, while Taki turns Mitsuha into the most popular girl in her school.

Things aren’t all fun and games, however, as a revelation of an impending natural disaster threatens Mitsuha’s entire town, leaving the two high schoolers to try and figure out a means to utilize their unique situation to save the town and everyone in it.

What’s really striking about this story is that, although it does follow a number of traditions and obvious cliches of anime and high school dramas, it manages to make it all feel original and fresh thanks to its creative setup (which is something of a cross between Groundhog Day and Freaky Friday) as well as its well-written characters.

The fact that each of the two leading characters are often each other means we get to know one character through the other, which makes the relationship between the two something truly unique. By the end of it all, Taki and Mitsuha become two of the most believable and likable characters in animation.

Your Name also boasts a refreshing combination of genres, the type of which usually only seems to happen in smart animated features like this. It can get serious and dramatic, and is a fun high school movie in its own right. But it’s also strangely and beautifully romantic, and can be incredibly funny (the first two things Taki notices when he inhabits Mitsuha’s body are the exact two things a young man would notice if he switched bodies with a young woman).

What really surprised me about Your Name is how well it captures all these various emotions. Anime films are frequently interesting, but often at the expense of emotional resonance. A lot of anime films introduce audiences to intriguing worlds, and their efforts at more philosophical storytelling definitely feel different than what we usually see in western animation. But the world-building is often convoluted, and the philosophical elements can feel forced, which gets in the way of the story and characters resonating with their audiences. It seems only Studio Ghibli consistently finds the right balance of these elements.

Thankfully, Your Name gets it right! I’d even say that it successfully evokes its emotion better than any anime film outside of Studio Ghibli that I’ve ever seen. It’s sweet, fun, funny, sad and touching.

Another aspect of Your Name that I really appreciated is that the film never feels the need to explain why any of the body-switching is happening. There are a few hinted possibilities (a passing meteorite, a cultural ritual Mitsuha partakes in), but nothing that overtly explains it. Your Name wisely trusts its audience to be able to enjoy the story without needing to have the finer details spoon-fed to them.

Your Name is also a strikingly beautiful film, with some of the most outstanding animation I’ve ever seen. The character designs aren’t the most original out there, but their movements are as fluid and believable as any animated character. The backgrounds are stunning, and there’s a wonderful sense of detail in everything going on on-screen. The visuals are complimented by a similarly beautiful soundtrack, which captures the range of emotions of the film, without ever becoming overbearing.

The entire picture is just an aesthetic wonder. It’s a film you can’t help but be absorbed in, with its visual and audio beauty ultimately only complimenting what is a really heartfelt story.

2016 was a great year for animated features: Disney had the one-two punch of Zootopia and Moana, Pixar’s Finding Dory was a surprisingly good sequel, and Kubo and the Two Strings was a stop-motion wonder from Laika. Yet even with all that competition, Your Name ultimately comes out on top as the best animated feature 2016 had to offer.

I went into Your Name knowing of the success it’s had, and tried to keep my expectations at bay as to not end up disappointed. But Your Name ended up being that rare kind of feature that – once the last credit rolled and I could only then get out of my seat – left me feeling overjoyed and grateful for having seen it.

Your Name is simply a wonderful film.

 

9.5

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Review

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has been something of a guilty pleasure of mine since its release in 2009. It’s no great film by any stretch of the imagination, but why would it be? It was the third entry in a franchise that was only ever decent to begin with. On the plus side, it seems like Blue Sky Studios was aware that this was never a series that would rival the likes of  Toy Story in terms of emotional depth, so they just went in the “fun” direction. Though it’s a flawed film,  Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs does succeed in being an enjoyable romp, and certainly a step up from the largely forgettable second entry in the series.

From the get-go, it’s obvious that Blue Sky Studios had stopped trying to make the Ice Age films into animated classics and doubled down on cartoonish silliness. This time, the animal heroes find themselves on an adventure through a subterranean realm where the dinosaurs never went extinct.

The film begins when Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) finds three giant eggs in an underground cavern. Thinking the eggs were abandoned, Sid decides to take them as his own. It turns out these are tyrannosaurus eggs, and once they hatch, the babies start running amok among all the ice age creatures. That is until their mother shows up and takes the babies back to the underground dinosaur world. But the babies have grown fond of Sid, so the tyrannosaurus mother reluctantly takes him along as well. Sid’s mammoth friends Manny (Ray Ramano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah), along with Diego the sabertooth tiger (Denis Leary), and Ellie’s opossum brothers Crash and Eddie (Sean William Scott and Josh Peck), set out on a rescue mission to bring Sid home.

It’s as simple of a plot as it gets, but there are token attempts at bringing some added drama to the mix. Manny and Ellie are expecting a baby, Diego fears he’s lost his edge as a hunter, and of course Sid’s relationship with the baby dinosaurs. It’s silly and simple, and little more than a means to dress up what is a tried-and-true adventure story, but it’s fun.

As is the case with every Ice Age installment, there’s a running side story in the film about Scrat the squirrel chasing an ever-elusive acorn. Only this time, Scrat has some competition in the form of a female flying squirrel named Scratte, with the rivalry between the two squirrels developing into a romance.

The best part of the film, however, is a weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg), whose years spent in the dinosaur realm have left him a little cooky, and who serves as the groups’ escort in the dangerous dinosaur world.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs also has appropriately fun animation to compliment it all. It’s not among the most visually striking animated features, but the character designs are fun, with the dinosaurs in particular adding more variety and color into the mix, and the change in setting helping the film stand out among the other installments in the ongoing series.

It’s true, many of the problems with the series are still in full force here. Primarily, there are just too many characters for the short running time to know what to do with, and many of the character arcs feel tacked on and rushed because of it (this is especially true for Diego). But y’know, this is a movie about a couple of mammoths, a sabertooth tiger and a weasel trying to save a sloth from dinosaurs, with a squirrel romance thrown into the mix. It’s not exactly trying to tell a groundbreaking story.

In the end, Ice Age 3 is definitely Ice Age 3. But hey, it has fun action scenes, solid animation, is actually pretty funny at times, and is a pretty fun ride. If you’re looking for something more, look elsewhere. Though honestly, you could do a whole lot worse than Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

 

6.5