Case Number 17570: Small Claims Court


Fox // 2009 // 93 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 27th, 2009

The Charge

"I thought the dinosaurs were extinct!"

The Case

The first Ice Age film was nothing special, but it was a perfectly satisfactory bit of animated entertainment for the kids. However, I figured one film was enough. The premise and characters didn't seem compelling enough to support an ongoing franchise, but then studios aren't interested in the strength of premises and characters as much as they're interested in box office figures. Ice Age was a hit, so predictably enough there was a sequel, and predictably enough the filmmakers were more or less out of ideas in terms of finding interesting things to do with most of the characters. Ice Age: The Meltdown was mostly rather dull, so is Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs any better? A little, I suppose. I'm still not convinced there is any good reason to Ice Age going, but I enjoyed Dawn of the Dinosaurs for what it is.

The movie begins (as these films do) not with the primary characters, but with the ever-entertaining Scrat the Squirrel. Scrat's never-ending quests to gather his beloved acorns have been the consistent high points of these films, and that's certainly the case once again in Dawn of the Dinosaurs. These manic, comically inventive sequences recall the better slapstick of the Looney Tunes era, offering timelessly amusing comedy that will hold up far better than the silly pop culture references that litter the rest of the film. The filmmakers shake things up a little this time by throwing the alluring Scratte into the mix. Scrat finds Scratte immensely appealing, but the problem is she shares his passion for acorns. This leads to a number of sequences in which Scrat struggles to choose between his libido and that elusive acorn.

Good as these moments are, they remain a side dish to the less involving main course. When we catch up with our old friends, the mammoth Manny (Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond) and his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah, Last Holiday) are expecting a child. This scenario has caused Diego the Saber-Toothed Tiger to feel quite introspective. He ponders the possibility of having a family of his own and quickly determines that he is meant to be single. For some unexplained reason, this makes him feel like he should probably leave the group and strike out on his own. After all, if you're not going to have a wife and kids, you might as well abandon all of your friends, right?

Meanwhile, Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo, Nothing Like the Holidays) finds some large eggs in a cave and decides that he wants to keep them for himself. When the eggs hatch, Sid finds himself responsible for three cute little baby Tyrannosaurus Rex's. Despite the obvious challenges this poses, Sid is determined that he is going to care for these troublesome reptiles. Alas, where there are babies there's usually a mother, and before long Momma T-Rex storms along and takes her children back (and takes Sid along with them). Manny, Ellie, Diego, Crash (Seann William Scott, American Pie), Eddie (Josh Peck, Drillbit Taylor) and a swashbuckling new friend named Buck (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead) attempt to stage a rescue. Much chaos ensues, naturally.

The film veers inconsistently between witty and juvenile in the comedy department, occasionally offering some genuinely clever moments ("The wind is speaking to us. I'm not sure what it's saying though, as I don't speak wind") while also relying on such tedious standbys as fart jokes. I will note that I was surprised by some of the innuendo this film gets away with, as it occasionally seems just a tad ribald for a children's movie. For instance, consider the moment in which Sid sees Manny & Ellie's baby and exclaims, "It's a boy!" only to be corrected by Manny: "That's her tail."

The action sequences are similarly inconsistent. The best of these (aside from the Scrat sequences, obviously) is the moment in which Sid desperately attempts to avoid breaking three dinosaur eggs while careening down a snow-bound mountain. It's terrifically enjoyable and well-staged stuff, though it is balanced out by some of the later sequences that rely too much on mindless frenzy. The climactic battle between Buck and the giant evil dinosaur named Rudy (I know, right?) is pretty engaging if a bit brief. The animation throughout is quite solid. The talents of the folks over at Blue Sky are considerable in this department; it's a shame their stories have been pretty ordinary thus far.

I can't speak about the audio and video quality of this disc, as Fox sent their usual screener disc with sub-par A/V qualities.

The supplements included on the first disc are pretty thin: all you get is a commentary track featuring director Carlos Saldanha & a whole host of folks from Blue Sky and some theatrical trailers. However, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is initially being packaged with a second DVD called "The Scrat Pack." I had hopes that this might be an original short film that would compliment the film (this technique was recently used by the DVD release of Kung Fu Panda), but alas, it's merely a repackaging of the previously released Scrat shorts included on the DVDs of the other two films. However, there are also a handful of Scrat-centric featurettes. "The Saber-Toothed Squirrel" (2 minutes) is a pointless faux-vintage documentary piece about the character, "Scrat: From Head to Toe" (8 minutes) is a tutorial on how to draw the character, "Scrat: Breaking Story" (2 minutes) is a cutesy live-action piece about modern-day scientists discovering Scrat and his acorn frozen in a block of ice, "Scrat: News Report" (2 minutes) is a variation on the same, "Fox Movie Channel Presents Making a Scene" (9 minutes) is a dull making-of piece, "Falling for Scratte" (8 minutes) is a quick featurette on Scrat's love interest, "Buck: From Easel to Weasel" (7 minutes) spotlights the other new character, "Unearthing the Lost World" (9 minutes) talks about the dinosaurs, "Walk the Dinosaur" (2 minutes) is a horrible music video featuring an awful Queen Latifah hip-hop song, and finally you get a handful of tiresome DVD-Rom games. Honestly, there isn't really anything here worth your time, except perhaps the previously released Scrat shorts.

The film is an adequate bit of entertainment, nothing more and nothing less. It will be far more rewarding for children than adults, but there's nothing terribly wrong with that, I suppose. Still, it would have been nice if the filmmakers could have expanded the elements that work and eliminated those that don't. The supplemental package is a letdown, too.

The Verdict

Not guilty, but that doesn't mean I'm eagerly awaiting Ice Age: The Th4w.

Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Featurettes
* Short Films
* DVD-ROM Games

* IMDb