Lazy, transparent, disposable and at its worst, boring, Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs is a sometimes beautiful piece of animation consistently ruined by unfocused directing, bizarre editing choices, phoned-in voice acting, and a script which is neither witty nor filled with momentum. Of course it’s in 3D too because the extra dimension, like everything else in the prehistoric troposphere, is yet another apparatus for the film to hastily implement without foresight, planning or success. I guess the first question which comes to mind is why bother? Why bother even finishing a film all involved were clearly so ambivalent about?
Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are having a baby. Or a cub. Or a gosling. Or whatever a newborn woolly mammoth is called. For some strange reason, this impending birth causes Manny to distance himself from all of his friends, probably to give each of them a three minute back story to resolve an hour and a half later like some second-rate, shabby Wizard Of Oz redux. Diego (Denis Leary), a smilodon, fears domestic tranquility has softened his instincts and desire as a hunter. Sid (John Leguizamo), a ground sloth, feels abandoned and adopts three baby dinosaurs. Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck), twin opossums, work on their pratfalls and fart jokes. And Scrat (Chris Wedge), a saber-toothed squirrel, well, he’s still wandering around with that acorn, though, this time with a lady frenemy conveniently named Scratte hot on his tail.
After the dinosaur triplets’ mother appears and abducts her own babies along with their captor Sid, 10,000 B.C.’s overbearing and talkative A-Team discover a crack in the ice which grants them access to a more primitive age of grass, foliage, and stegosauruses. There they meet Buck (Simon Pegg), an excited, one-eyed weasel who promises to track Sid and the dinosaurs into a forest of lava. Because, as those of you who are paleontologists out there know, baby T-Rex’s have to be nurtured on or around a volcano. Evolutionary, my dear Baron Munchausen.
Laughing gas, a reptilian-looking Godzilla and ill-tempered birds all show up to put the search party on hold and add a few extra minutes of screen time, but mercifully, a conclusion is reached involving woolly mammoth hatchlings, knives fashioned out of teeth and of course, a cutesy end to each one of the side stories. Hooray for the efforts of conveniently packaging what one started.
It’s not so much Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs is terrible as it is disinterested, lacksidasical and slow. Rather than starting with a central idea and adding layers as it works its way out, this film seems to have envisioned several nifty camera tricks and a few time period relevant jokes and cobbled together lame ways to tie it all together. You know how I know this? Because all of Ice Age’s best bits are cutaway shots and snappy one-liners completely unrelated to the plot. A story about a T-Rex being turned into a T-Rachel. Knowing a caterpillar before he came out. The best jokes could not be less relevant to what’s going on, which means they were written separately from the story arc. There’s no playful bantering between the characters, no cutesy, improvised off-the-cuff moments--just fruitless, joyless, forced dialogue inter-spliced now and again with the random irrelevant, original idea.
All the best children’s movies contain subject matter some might say is perhaps too old for the intended viewer. Like Pixar’s newest Up, they expose deep and sensitive issues like death, loss, abandonment, fear, isolation, loneliness, betrayal and greed, knowing little kids can grasp (and stomach) a lot more depth than we’d guess. Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs is surface-level fluff barely fit for background noise, too stupid to realize a gag about looking for milk and instead jerking off a bull is way less appropriate for kids than just telling them a real story. With real emotional complexity.
This movie makes The Prince Of Egypt seem like Beauty And The Beast.