The computer animated Ice Age films tend to get a bit lost in the mix when up against the output of studios such as Pixar (WALL·E, Finding Nemo, Toy Story) and DreamWorks (Monsters vs. Aliens, Kung Fu Panda, Shrek). Nevertheless the Ice Age franchise is up to its third instalment and the good news is that this is a franchise that actually gets better with each film. The animation, story, humour and characterisation in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs are an improvement on 2006’s Ice Age: The Meltdown, which were an improvement on the original Ice Age in 2002. Like the films of Pixar and DreamWorks, the Ice Age films are going for the family audience where young children and adults will be equally entertained. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs manages to blend traditional storytelling techniques about heroes on a quest, with some Warner Bros Looney Tunes inspired comedy violence plus a few nods to Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones.
In this third instalment the original trio of Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the sabre tooth tiger (Denis Leary) and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) are split up for the first time. After getting all clucky over the wrong trio of mysterious eggs, Sid is kidnapped by an angry and supposedly extinct dinosaur and taken into a prehistoric Lost World underground. Manny and Diego set off to rescue him with the aid of Manny’s very pregnant mammoth companion Ellie (Queen Latifah) and his possum brothers-in-law Eddie (Josh Peck) and Crash (Seann William Scott). Along the way they are also joined by an adventurous and slightly crazy weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg).
The acorn obsessed prehistoric squirrel/rat thing named Scrat once again pops up throughout the film to be the victim of all sorts of physical punishments and torments, many of which make the Roadrunner’s treatment of the Coyote appear tame. Scrat is integrated into the main narrative far more effectively than before and in this third film we are introduced to Scratte, his romantic foil. The kids will laugh at the slapstick; the adults will giggle at the bizarre eroticisation their antics give to the humble acorn.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs once more sends its characters out into the unknown and leads them to lots of comedic bickering, strange situations, soul searching and realisation that family and friends are all that really count. It’s a winning formula and it works once again. The underground dinosaur world is spectacularly rendered and although the 3D animation is largely wasted and probably not worth paying extra to see; there are some terrific first person action scenes that are very exhilarating. This third instalment also nicely concludes Manny’s character arc from the brooding, angry and lonely creature that he was in the original film into a character who has had a second chance at being part of a family.