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.

 

5

Ice Age Review

Ice Age

Ice Age was the first motion picture by Blue Sky Studios. Released in 2002, Ice Age hit theaters when the boom of CG animated films was still in its early years. Blue Sky looked to make a name for themselves alongside the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks – and although Ice Age can’t go toe-to-toe with the better works of Dreamworks, let alone Pixar – Ice Age did succeed in putting the studio on the map, while simultaneously creating one of the most lucrative animated franchises in the world.

Ice Age tells the story of three animal heroes during, you guessed it, an ice age. Manny (Ray Romano) is a ill-tempered mammoth, Sid (John Leguizamo) is a sloth who’s bumbling and comedic, and Diego (Denis Leary) is a saber-toothed tiger with ulterior motives. Meanwhile, a sub-plot involving a squirrel named Scrat takes place, providing some slapstick and nonsense as he tries to store an acorn for the ice age.

Manny is a bit of a loner, drifting from herd to herd as he simply tries to get by in life. He meets up with Sid, whose persistent quest to become Manny’s best friend annoys the mammoth in a way not unlike the relationship between Shrek and Donkey.

During their ventures, Manny and Sid come across a human baby, whose mother saved him from an attack by a pack of saber-toothed tigers. Manny and Sid decide to take the baby back to his home, and meet up with Diego, who becomes the guide of the group. Unknown to Manny and Sid, Diego is from the pack that attacked the humans, and has been tasked with retrieving the baby, planning on leading Manny and Sid to an ambush by his pack.

Ice AgeIt’s a very simple “buddy movie” plot, mixed in with a little adventure. Even back in 2002 it felt far from original (along with the Shrek/Donkey dynamic of Manny and Sid, the whole “returning a kid to their home” setup felt ripped right out of Monsters, Inc.). But Ice Age does provide some decent entertainment, and even has a little bit of heart to it (something its small army of sequels sorely lack).

The animation has admittedly dated a bit. CG animated films have only really captured a fluidity and timeless quality comparable to traditional animation in recent years, so in terms of the technical power behind the visuals, Ice Age can’t hold up. With that said, the character designs are still fun to look at, with Sid and Scrat being particularly memorable for simply being funny from a visual standpoint (the humans are less convincing, however, which might explain why the sequels left them out of the equation).

Really, there’s not a whole lot to Ice Age. On the plus side, that also means there’s not much to complain about. It may not be anything special, but there’s also nothing particularly horrible about it. The simple plot and characters work well enough, and make for a fun, if uneventful film. It’s sequels may be struggling to to live up to the original, but the first Ice Age is a charming piece of entertainment. If nothing else.

 

6

Ice Age: The Meltdown Review

Ice Age: The Meltdown

Ice Age: The Meltdown was the second installment in the seemingly never ending Ice Age franchise, a series that has always been more successful than its quality should merit. On the bright side, this 2006 sequel was released when the franchise still had some dignity. On the downside, it seems the series was already wrung dry were story is concerned.

The Meltdown begins sometime after the events of the first movie, and global warming has started to take effect, melting most of the icy world the characters inhabit (though it’s all largely intact in the subsequent films). The franchise’s heroes Manny the mammoth (Ray Ramano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), and Diego the sabertooth tiger (Dennis Leary) have been living in a valley among other animals for some time. But with the glaciers surrounding the valley melting they have to hightail it out of there before they’re swept away in a flood.

Ice Age: The MeltdownMeanwhile, Manny comes to worry that he may be the very last mammoth, until he comes across another mammoth named Ellie (Queen Latifah), who believes herself to be an opossum like her adopted brothers Crash and Eddie. Ellie and her brothers join the three mainstays, all the while the usual side-story takes place where Scrat the squirrel goes through outlandish situations just to claim an acorn.

It’s a pretty thin plot, which kind of magnifies that this is an obligatory sequel and not a worthy one. It kind of feels like a road trip movie with a misplaced sense of urgency. There’s even a duo of prehistoric, recently thawed, sea-dwelling villains who are thrown into the mix to try to add some additional adversity, but their sporadic appearances and lack of voices mean they hardly have any presence.

Similarly, the movie has so many main characters that it doesn’t really know what to do with most of them. I’m fine with the story taking breaks to show Scrat’s antics, as his more cartoonish ventures always serve as a fun little detour to the main story. But while Manny has a budding relationship with Ellie, Sid gets a single scene’s worth of a plot in which he is kidnapped and nearly sacrificed by a tribe of mini-sloths, and Diego’s character is reduced to being defined by a fear of swimming. You know you have too many characters when the movie gives two of the franchise’s three main characters such forced and obligatory side-stories.

There are some fun action sequences (something the series is actually pretty consistent with), and even a couple of funny moments. The animation was decent in its day (even if the character designs are mostly uninspired), and though it doesn’t look too impressive by today’s standard’s, it doesn’t look bad either. Kids will probably find the movie entertaining, but there’s nothing much here for older viewers to get too invested in (unless you enjoy the fact that the characters say “ass,” “damn,” and “crap” within the first fifteen minutes).

Despite a few humorous moments and the strangely entertaining antics of Scrat, there’s just not enough story or depth to hold it all together.

 

4