Wasn't the Ice Age AFTER the dinosaurs? ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wasn't the Ice Age AFTER the dinosaurs?

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
My rating:

I used to work in a building in which the lifts had video monitors that played movies, for the entertainment of the lift passengers. Unfortunately, they would only ever play two movies - and not even the entire movie, but only two clips of each. One of them was the first film in the Ice Age series. Now, perhaps it was because I had to watch the same two clips over and over again every damn day, but I thought it sucked - crappy animation, lame direction, and unfunny jokes. Never watched the second movie, and was not looking forward to this one.

Well, either it was because I was forced to watch the first one over and over again, or the series has greatly improved.

Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano) is expecting a baby with his mate Ellie (Queen Latifah), which arouses mothering instincts in Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo). Sid finds three eggs which hatch into baby T-Rexes, and when the mother comes to claim them and kidnaps Sid, his "herd" - Manny, Ellie, Diego the sabretooth tiger (Denis Leary), and opossums Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) must rescue him. Their adventures take them to a lost valley of dinosaurs, and there they meet the slightly deranged weasel Buckminster (Simon Pegg). Meanwhile, Scrat the squirrel's eternal - and eternally unsuccessful - pursuit of his acorn is complicated by an alluring female member of his species... named Scratte.

Okay, the "dawn" part of the title is really dumb, considering dinosaurs are already supposed to be extinct in the movie. And the jokes are still kinda lame, but they're a little funnier than the two clips I was forced to watch every day. The visual pratfalls work better than the dialogue-based humour (although I did LOL at Manny's description of the kind of mate Sid should look for); kids will find them hilarious, and adults in touch with their inner kid will at least crack a smile.

But it's biggest improvement is in the action scenes, of which there are quite a few. For the most part they are serviceable but unexceptional, until the climactic one. It's pretty darn spectacular, and it allows the characters to perform a few good feats of awesomeness. The animation quality is greatly improved as well, and there's a great deal more colour and imagination to the visual design.

What doesn't work, though, are its attempts at creating emotional subtexts. There's a thing about Diego feeling dissatisfied with the domestic life, which for some reason offends Manny. Later, Diego is tempted to take up Buckminster's hermetic but exciting life in the valley. Sid bonds with the three baby T-Rexes, which of course means a tearful goodbye toward the end. None of these work nearly as well as they should, and serve only to bore kids and adults alike. Diego especially seems superfluous for most of the running time; as a sabretooth tiger, he seems like he ought to be the badass of the team, a role which is usurped here by Buckminster. The weasel gets almost all of the cool scenes - and steals a few of the others as well.

Weaving in and out of the main narrative are the exploits of Scrat and Scratte. I dunno; I didn't really find them funny. There's a lot of slapstick, mostly at Scrat's expense, and while they weren't really boring, they never really made me laugh either. And I got the impression that even the kids in the cinema with me didn't laugh as hard at their later scenes as they did in the beginning. It would've been nice if the luckless squirrel had gotten some actual character development, instead of being used solely to entertain the kids.

The king of animated family films is still Pixar; they're the ones who never fail to make movies that aren't only funny, but poignant and meaningful as well. (And I'm really annoyed that it's taking 3 months for Up to be released in Malaysia.) This movie is no substitute - the Ice Age series barely deserves to ride Pixar's coattails. But superficial entertainment is still entertainment. If you're not limiting yourself to just one CG-animated movie this year, this would be a worthwhile watch. Still, wait for Up.

NEXT REVIEW: Public Enemies
Anticipation level: looking forward to it