When franchises start winding down and a film series starts to run out of fresh ideas, the makers often turn to gimmicks. This can be seen in cheesy horror flicks, where every franchise seems destined to end up in outer space (Jason X (2001), Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997) etc.). However, since the latest entrant in the animated Ice Age series, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, centers around prehistoric mammals, it’d be too much trouble to shoot them into the deepest, darkest recesses of space (though the smart money is on aliens or unfrozen mammoths in the future Ice Age 4: A Space Odyssey). So instead, the whopping five writers behind this movie have taken a page from Art Bell and decided on an Ed Wood-level of suspension of disbelief by creating a land of dinosaurs tucked away inside the Earth.
Now, some of you might be asking yourself, “Weren’t dinosaurs extinct by the Ice Age?” Yes, they were, but don’t fret, since science has never gotten in the way of clever scripting. Seeing as how this is an animated kiddie flick, already populated by all types of talking animals, scientific facts aren’t really something to be scrutinized. It’s not the lack of scientific accuracy that’s most troubling here, but rather the complete lack of fresh or inventive ideas, which are idly replaced with some long-extinct reptiles in an attempt at revitalizing an already failing franchise.
Don’t expect much deviation from the first two Ice Age movies. All the characters—and voice actors—are back for the third film. There’s Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano) and his now pregnant wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), Diego the saber tooth tiger (Dennis Leary) and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo). And of course, there’s Scrat, the half-squirrel, half-rat that shows up throughout the film looking for acorns and getting into comedic high jinks. The only deviation—aside from some middling 3-D effects—are the dinosaurs.
The bulk of the plot follows Manny, Ellie, Diego and the horrible legacy of Bart Simpson, a couple of Bart-esque, painfully oh-so-cool troublemaking possums (Sean William Scott and Josh Peck, Drillbit Taylor) as they are continually imperiled by roaming dinos while they search for Sid, who has been whisked away to the underground dinosaur world by a T-Rex. The flimsy plot isn’t helped by the even weaker characterizations. Dawn of the Dinosaurs is one of those movies where each character is defined by a single quality that’s hammered into the ground constantly throughout the film (Manny has become an overbearing, overprotective expectant parent; Diego feels like he’s losing his edge etc.).
As writing, it’s lazy—while the dialogue, jokes (consisting mostly of Romano wisecracking and demonstrating yet again why his film career never took off) and requisite pop-culture references are no better. The only bright spot—aside from being an admittedly handsome-looking film—is Simon Pegg as a crazed survivalist weasel, but he’s nowhere near good enough to save the movie. Instead, you simply realize it’s a shame he’s being wasted in this to begin with. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and peril.