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1 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

  • Directed by Carlos Saldanha and Mike Thermeier
  • Written by Michael Berg, Peter Ackerman, Mike Reiss, Yoni Brenner
  • Featuring the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Simon Pegg
  • Classification: PG

In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, every character is like the hyperactive rat-squirrel Scrat, and the audience is bounced around like his elusive acorn.

The third in the series of prehistoric animated comedies for children, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs returns to a familiar cast of characters and a message about the survival power of family. By the conclusion of this manic, brain-rattling exercise, though, parents may well be thinking "Hurrah for extinction."

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To be fair, anyone who is not watching this film in 3-D, including those of us at the press screening, may be at a big disadvantage. The filmmakers have focused on non-stop action, with a succession of thrill-ride sequences that, presumably, pop out very effectively if you're wearing 3-D glasses. If you're not wearing them, they just seem like one gratingly antic, sub-Steven Spielberg action sequence.

The misadventures of the acorn-chasing Scrat, which were previously sequestered into stand-alone shorts, have now been integrated into the main movie. But more slapstick scenes with Scrat, and the addition of a new foxy, plush-tailed character named Scratte, provides more contrivance but less charm.

There are only a few brief moments to settle down with the amiable voice cast. Followers of the previous two Ice Age s will be familiar with the prehistoric couple of Manny (Ray Romano), a neurotic mammoth, and his mate, Ellie (Queen Latifah). As the movie starts, the pair is expecting a baby mammoth, and all the rest of the gang are feeling a little left out.

Their extended family includes the earnest sabre-toothed tiger, Diego (Denis Leary), who feels that too much domestication is causing him to lose his edge, and it's time to move on. The slow-witted sloth, Sid (John Leguizamo), starts feeling his own paternal pangs, and adopts a trio of mysterious eggs which he finds under the ice. The only ones who are unaffected are the nutty sibling possums, Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck), who continue to raise havoc and off-putting odours.

Soon, those three eggs hatch, producing three baby dinosaurs. They immediately fix on Sid as their new mother, but they are too rambunctious and carnivorous for him to handle. When their Godzilla-sized mother T-Rex emerges from her underground home to get back her babies, she picks them up in her jaws, along with Sid, and heads back underground.

The rest of the extended family goes on a rescue mission, descending into a world full of trees and grass and fresh dangers. They are soon introduced to a new character, Buck (Simon Pegg), a British-accented weasel who fancies himself a swashbuckling pirate and combines Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and Moby-Dick 's Captain Ahab. Buck is obsessed with a giant white dinosaur named Rudy, who rules the underground realm. There are encounters with flesh-eating plants, raptors and a squadron of pterodactyls, each of which provides opportunities for more simulated theme-park rides.

The screenplay is credited to four writers, including original Ice Age co-writers Michael Berg and Peter Ackerman, but there's little evidence of creativity either in the paint-by-numbers time-travelling plot or the sort of ad-libs you associate with gag writers sitting around a boardroom table. Most of the banter here is less inspired than incessant. Too many of the mildly off-colour jokes seem targeted at some puerile void between parents and children.

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About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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