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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Posted on October 27, 2009 at 8:00 am

This third in the Ice Age series is a bit sweeter and gentler than the first two, perhaps less ambitious in scope than the first but much more engaging than the second. The 3D animation is beautifully immersive and the story is exciting but so low-key that everyone, even the scary dinosaurs with the big teeth, ends up happy.

Again this is the story of woolly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), and saber tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary), now joined by Manny’s mate Ellie (Queen Latifah), who is about to have a baby. Everything seems settled and happy, but of course we would not have a story unless everything got unsettled pretty quickly. Diego is feeling left out and worried about getting older and less powerful, so he decides to leave the makeshift “tribe” they all think of as family. Sid finds three huge eggs and immediately adopts them, his nesting instinct so over the top that he insists he is their mother. The eggs hatch, and at first the little dino babies happily follow Sid around like ducklings, though they are not entirely on board with the idea of vegetarianism. But then their mommy dinosaur comes to get them, grabbing Sid along with her chicks, and pending childbirth or not, Sid, Manny, Ellie, and Diego go off to rescue him.

They end up in an underground portal to a place where the weather is temperate and the dinosaurs still rule. “I thought those guys were extinct,” one of our heroes comments. (Note that in real life the last Ice Age was about 20 thousand years ago and the last dinosaurs were about 65 million years ago, but what the heck, animals do not talk or build playgrounds, either.) There they meet up with an off-beat piratical weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg), who teaches them some survival skills and leads them to Sid. Along the way, they have a number of adventures, and yes, that baby decides to arrive at just the wrong place and time, but despite some chases, several falls, and one near-ingestion by a hungry plant, everyone ends up happy and healthy.

Children and their parents will enjoy the portrayals of family life. “You’re trying to childproof nature,” Ellie chides Manny as his approaching fatherhood brings literally home to him the dangers of the world. And they will enjoy Buck’s rakish antics and the traditional subplot about the prehistoric squirrel Scrat and his perpetual quest for the elusive acorn. This time, his biggest impediment is a long-lashed female, who outsmarts him at every turn.

Scrat’s romantic confusion is a lot of fun, but there is a sense that the folks behind this movie are not evolved enough to think of the female characters as anything other than wise and nurturing — and a little bossy. Ellie’s job in the movie is to be the grown-up; apparently even in pre-historic times the females were more, uh, evolved. Not as funny, however.

But the sweet nature of this film is engaging and the adorable characters designed by illustrator Peter de Seve make this movie both satisfying and fun. The squirrels’ tar pit dip, romantic tango, and post-romantic home-decorating session, Sid’s efforts to mother the adorable dinosaur babies, and a nimble balance of action and humor make this one of the best family films of the year.

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3D Action/Adventure Animation Comedy For the Whole Family Series/Sequel

Ice Age

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild peril
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril, off-screen deaths including family members of main characters
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2002

Ice Age” is a clever, funny, and touching story of an unlikely trio of animals who band together to return a human baby to his family.

The story is set when glaciers covered much of the earth, 20,000 years ago. As all of the other animals migrate south in search of food, three characters are moving in the opposite direction. They are a wooly mammoth named Manny (voice of Ray Romano), a sloth named Sid (John Leguizamo), and a saber tooth tiger named Diego (Denis Leary). In classic road movie fashion, they don’t like or trust each other very much at the beginning and the journey becomes a psychological one as they share experiences and confidences that make them see each other – and themselves – very differently.

This does not reach the level of Shrek for wit, there is no romance to keep the grown-ups happy, and the plot has no surprises. But it is told with terrific energy, imagination, visual invention, and humor and it moves along very quickly. Interestingly, the three lead voices are provided by performers who began as stand-up comics rather than actors. Their voices are edgy and distinctive, perfectly matched with their characters.

The computer animation is truly magnificent, from the majestic ice-covered mountains to the acorn treasure toted around by a hilarious squirrel who shows up over and over again in the travels of our heroes. The texture of the fur and feathers, the glint of the sun on ice, and soft sparkle of the snowflakes falling at night are perfectly rendered. The pristine settings convey a sense of vastness and promise that will make grown-up viewers pause to think about whether civilization has been all that civilized. All ages will enjoy the facial expressions, body language and — I have to say it — performances of the ice age mammals, so vivid and so true that you may forget that they are pixels, not people.

Parents should know that the characters face peril several times throughout the movie, and it may be upsetting for younger children. The mother of a young child is killed (off-screen) saving the child’s life. Another character recalls the death of his family. While it is fairly mild on the “Bambi” scale, the issues of human hunting of animals, animal predators, and extinction are raised. A character makes a skeptical comment about “mating for life.” There is some mild diaper humor.

Families who see this movie should talk about what Manny says about members of a herd being willing to risk their lives for each other. Why was it so important for Manny to return the baby, even though the humans had hunted his herd? How did that help to heal some of Manny’s sadness? Why did Diego change his mind about Manny? Why did Manny change his mind about Sid? Was it because of something Sid did or because of something Manny learned about himself, or both? What is different about the way that Diego and Manny react to human attacks?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy learning more about the real Ice Age, and should visit a local natural history museum or look at this virtual tour from the Smithsonian Institution’s museum in Washington. They should take a look at the real cave paintings from that era to see paintings of mammoths and saber tooth tigers by people who really saw them. Families with younger children will also enjoy the “Land Before Time” series of videos and Disney’s “Dinosaur.

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Animation Movies -- format Series/Sequel Talking animals
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