In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, much-loved characters from the worldwide blockbusters Ice Age and Ice Age: The Meltdown are back, on an incredible adventure... for the ages. Scrat is still trying to nab the ever-elusive nut (while, maybe, finding true love); Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) await the birth of their mini-mammoth, Sid (John Leguizamo) the sloth gets into trouble when he creates his own makeshift family by hijacking some dinosaur eggs; and Diego (Denis Leary) the saber-toothed tiger wonders if he's growing too "soft" hanging with his pals. On a mission to rescue the hapless Sid, the gang ventures into a mysterious underground world, where they have some close encounters with dinosaurs, battle flora and fauna run amuck – and meet a relentless, one-eyed, dino-hunting weasel named Buck. (from MovieWeb.com)
With the success of two films preceding it, Fox Animation Studio brings moviegoers Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, also known as Ice Age 3. The first film bowed in 2002, offering a unique if not relatively simple animation style to tell the story of a group of unlikely animal friends who band together during the Ice Age of Earth's history. The 2006 sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown continued the story of these characters, developing them a bit further and introducing a few new characters into the mix. Now, another three years later, Dawn Of The Dinosaurs further tells the story of this animal "herd" as they accidentally discover a world of prehistoric animals that they had long thought to be extinct.
While some sequels tend to copy themselves in an attempt to recapture the success of the first film (or the sequel before it), Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs feels very much like a continuation of the series and not so much a retread. In fact, these films rarely repeat lines or moments from each other, giving it a natural flow from one film to the next. If anything is repetitive, it's the welcomed presence of the prehistoric squirrel, Scrat, and his desperate attempts to snag an acorn. It's very much the whole Trix rabbit not being able to get a bowl of Trix kind of gag, but with Scrat it works. And to keep things fresh, Scrat meets a new nemesis, Scratte, a female prehistoric squirrel. The interactions are hilarious and we finally get to see Scrat obsess over something else for a change. In fact, as love becomes an interest of Scrat's, family becomes a major theme in this installation of the series. Manny's longing for a family was a theme for the first two films and the anticipation of a pending newborn between he and Ellie becomes much of what Ice Age 3 focuses on, while Sid expresses his desires to be a parent.
While the animation in 2002's Ice Age was anything but impressive, watching the films in succession (which, admittedly, is what I did before seeing this third film), highlights the growth and maturation of the animation quality with each Ice Age movie. It's obvious that Fox Animation Studio has grown in its budget and quality over the past seven years. Even last year's Horton Hears A Who film from Fox Animation displayed incredible quality. Dawn Of The Dinosaurs ups the ante for this particular series. I couldn't help notice how great these characters looked now.
The Meltdown introduced three new characters into the series: Ellie the female mammoth, and the possum brothers Crash and Eddie. All three return in Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, and all of the gripes I felt about their characters were remedied this time around. Crash and Eddie felt less irritating and overly cheesy, and were used more sparingly -- seemingly more so when the moment felt right. Also, Queen Latifah's delivery of her lines felt more natural in this "threequel," while last time it felt more forced or rigid. One major new (talking) character is featured in Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, the one-eyed weasel Buck, who happens to be gradually losing his mind. Voiced by British comedy actor Simon Pegg, Buck is one of the most fun additions to the series, and he offers some of the funniest moments in Ice Age 3.
The content in Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs earns its PG rating quite easily. For one, the presence of the dinosaurs make for some pretty intense moments in this movie. A few times, they menacingly pop up out of nowhere with creepy eyes and such. We see Diego chasing down a deer to kill for food (but he gets tired before he reaches it), and we see a fair amount of dinosaurs threatening the main characters all throughout the film. While the sea monsters were pretty intense in The Meltdown, this movie is a few times more intense than that. Also in the previous sequel, there was some mild language used for cheap laughs (like the "a" word and "d*mn") but none of that is used here, which is a nice change. However, several moments of innuendo or mild sexual humor are made. They're inappropriate and unnecessary, but probably subtle enough that kids won't pick up on it (check out the content details after this review, but references to a caterpillar "coming out" into a butterfly, Sid accidentally trying to milk a male ox thinking it was a female, etc, are the kind of tasteless jokes that it opts for). The whole movie doesn't run on gags like this which is good, but the humor does ride the line at times.
Overall, Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs is a pleasant surprise as a sequel. While Shrek The Third was a letdown from Shrek 2, Dawn Of The Dinosaurs improves on its predecessor. It retains just enough of the heart that each of the movies contains to still feel part of the series, but it changes things up enough not to feel like each movie is a retread. If you're looking for a lighter alternative to the heavier thematic material like that from Up, or are just looking for a fun adventure film, Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs delivers. If they decide to end the series here, it's a fine finish, but if they do decide to continue on, here's to hoping they can only build on the series instead of run it into the ground (like Shrek seems to be threatening to do as Shrek Forever After is slated for release next year).- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/10/09)
The DVD release of Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs is a little bit thin on unique extras. Where the DVD releases in the past for the first two films automatically included some making-of featurettes and even a brand new Scrat animated short, Ice Age 3 comes available in two packages -- a one-disc version and a 2-disc set that includes a bonus disc called "The Scrat Pack." The one-disc version includes the feature film (which looks great on DVD), as well as some bonus trailers for upcoming theatrical and home video releases and a short commercial advertising Marley & Me coming to DVD this holiday season. The only other feature is a filmmaker commentary audio track hosted by director Carlos Saldanha along with producers and animators from the Blue Sky Studios team. That is about the extent of the special features on disc one. It's disappointing because I expected more for what is easily the best out of the three. The other films' video releases received their own additional new Scrat animated shorts and I'm surprised Ice Age 3 doesn't continue in this tradition.
The Scrat Pack is a little better, however. If you pop the disc into the DVD-Rom drive on your computer, you can access three flash-driven little games, like Scrat Pinball and an eggshell guessing game. They're pretty fun, but probably won't occupy your time too long. The actual DVD features include the Scrat short "No Time For Nuts" -- a great little cartoon that was included on the Ice Age 2 DVD and "Gone Nutty," the first Scrat short which previously appeared on the DVD release of the original Ice Age. They're fun additions here, but if anyone owns the first two films on DVD, they already have these. There are also some news report style featurettes, all only about 2 minutes each, that were previously on the Ice Age 2 DVD release as well. There's nothing really special about them, but kids may find them enjoyable.
The second menu of features (of 2 total) is really where the Ice Age 3 goodies begin. The Fox Movie Channel "Making A Scene" (9:09) video is a short featurette about the story of the film. The first 2 minutes of it is spent summing up the plot of the story before it spends the rest of the time deconstructing the giant carnivorous plant sequence. While it over-plays the scene by showing it three or four times in various edits as the filmmakers talk about it, the real fun part is getting to hear comedian Simon Pegg, the voice actor for Buck, talk about the character and this scene, as well as we get to see a good amount of footage of Pegg in the studio recording his dialog. It was also neat to hear about the origin of the idea for the sequence, and how the plant idea was one they intended for a Scrat scene in Ice Age 2 that never came about. Another featurette, "Falling For Scratte" (8:29) goes behind the inspiration for introducing Scrat's counterpart Scratte, and offers behind-the-scenes insights from the animators and filmmakers, including some great storyboard drawings and concepts.
"Buck: From Easel to Weasel" (7:12) is a look into the creation of this new character especially for Ice Age 3. It's a fun little look at Buck, and features lots more commentary from Pegg (and from the filmmakers about choosing Pegg as Buck), as well as brief comments from the voice actors of Crash & Eddie - Josh Peck and Seann William Scott. "Unearthing The Lost World" (8:41) talks about taking the story to the next level and what went into designing the all-new dinosaur world while keeping it in the same feel as the previous Ice Age films. This one also features all of the chief voice actors reflecting on the film as well. Lastly is the "Walk The Dinosaur" Music Video (1:32) which uses a montage of footage from the movie set to Queen Latifah's recording for the film's soundtrack.
Overall, diehard fans of the film will want to grab the 2-disc version to get all of the bonus features, while casual fans will probably be fine with the one-disc version. I would have liked to have seen a bit more behind-the-scenes stuff (seeing only a couple brief clips of the actors talking about the film felt like a tease) and maybe even the inclusion of the Sid animated cartoon that appeared on last year's home video release of Horton Hears A Who!, but all things considered, this great film has been given a fairly decent DVD release.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 10/27/09)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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