I sometimes feel sympathy when critics review movies that are clearly meant for children. (For example, A.O. Scott in the New York Times.) “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is definitely not geared towards adults, and while it doesn’t have the same level of all-ages enjoyment as Pixar’s “Up”, there are some scenes that will resonate with parents. I need to point out that the two 8-year-olds I saw it with laughed from start to finish. One of them, my son, asked me to include the following in this review: “It has a very good amount of comedy, it’s much more fun to see in 3-D because then you get a better effect, and it’s a great movie. I give it ten thumbs up even though I don’t have ten thumbs, I only have two.” So odds are, your kids will love it.
As for me, I didn’t hate it. (There’s a quote for the ad.) There is a lot more action than the last two “Ice Age” films, which is fine, although the sequences aren’t as well done as the ones in “Up.” The animation looks terrific — lots of colorful plants and well-rendered fur, with 3-D helping to bring it all to life. Unlike “Coraline”, the 3-D effects aren’t particularly interesting. This new trend of “make every family film in 3-D” seems to be less about making the film three-dimensional and more about adding three dollars out to the ticket price. That said, it looks great. I just wish that it didn’t cost so darn much to take the kids to the movies.
All of the characters are back, as are the voice actors. Ray Romano is a good Manny the mammoth, Denis Leary does his thing as Diego the Sabretooth Tiger (aside: look at this list of films and TV shows that feature Sabretooth Tigers), and Queen Latifah is back as Ellie, Manny’s about-to-give-birth mate. (And yes, Scrat is still chasing that nut. This time he has a girlfriend. Sort of.) Ellie’s pregnancy allows the film to indulge in a lot of lines about parenting, the best ones delivered by John Leguizamo’s Sid the Sloth. Leguizamo is by far the best thing in the movie, and Sid gets to say lines such as “Eating kids is not a discipline issue!” and refer to himself as a single mom. (It makes sense, trust me.) The movie has several references to the “herd” raising Ellie and Manny’s baby, which to me sounded an awful lot like a non-traditional family. (“It Takes A Village“, anyone?) I wouldn’t go so far as to call that theme “thought-provoking” but it’s certainly in the film. It reminded me of what I liked about the first “Ice Age” — a group of prehistoric creatures looking out for each other, despite the fact that they’re from different species. That idea is still there, but the filmmakers decided to go for more action this time around.
One notable newcomer is Simon Pegg, who plays Buck, a psychotic swashbuckling guide that the herd meets when they go looking for Sid under the ice. (He appears to actually be psychotic, since he talks to creatures that aren’t there.) The “under the ice” thing is a big part of the plot, which I won’t go into because it kind of doesn’t matter. It also isn’t historically or scientifically accurate. You may or may not care about that, most children definitely won’t. (For something a bit more educational, check out the “Ice Age” DVD game, reviewed by Jeanne Sager at Droolicious.)
Bottom line: the kids will like it. It’s only 90 minutes. There are worse ways to spend an air-conditioned afternoon.