Ice Age has never been a series loaded with originality. Nor was it one particularly well received by critics (with each installment of the series the reviews get gradually worse). So when it came time for third (and supposed final) installment of the series, logic dictates that it do the worst. Well logic clearly can’t dictate worth crap in this case as Dawn of the Dinosaurs went on to gross $878 million worldwide, making it the second highest grossing animated film of all time and the third highest grossing international film of all time. And this is for the third installment in the series, mind you, that came out nearly ten years after the first one originally debuted. I’m more impressed by what this film accomplished than I am with the animation contained within it.
In the coolest Ice Age adventure yet, Manny and the herd discover a lost world of ferociously funny dinosaurs, including a cranky T. rex who’s got a score to settle with Sid! Meanwhile, Scrat goes nuts over the beautiful Scratte, but is she trying to win his heart – or steal his acorn?
Of course this is all very worrisome because now Fox will get greedy and greenlight a fourth film, even though there really can’t be another one. I have visions of this turning into The Land Before Time, although I would really just prefer it if they did a Scrat spin-off as that dude is freakin’ hilarious even after all of these years. In any case, what Ice Age has accomplished is truly astounding. I guess furry animals living in a glacial environment is something everyone wants to go see.
Having said all of that…this third film really is the weakest in the series, by far. What doesn’t help is it just starts out right away and throws our characters into a plot that has little setup. This is normally good as it doesn’t keep the audience waiting, but it actually made the film feel more like an episode of a TV series rather than an installment in a trilogy. I guess if you watch the films all back to back the jumping in is less abrupt, but really that’s just a minor qualm. The rest of the pacing for the film is solid and tight.
The main focus of this film is Sid (naturally). I really never liked Sid in these films and he’s the key reason I found this third installment so tired and tedious. He gets into trouble once again and everyone comes together to save him. Of course we get a new character with Buck, voiced by Simon Pegg, who nearly shows up Scrat in terms of hilarious dialogue and mannerisms. So while Sid was an annoyance whenever he was on screen, the addition of Buck was a welcome surprise which balanced things out, I suppose. Although the big bad guy in this film was kind of underwhelming, but still fun.
Another strange area of the film that didn’t make a whole lot of sense was Diego’s brief departure. I mean it’s set up nicely enough but it just seems kind of shoehorned into the whole story and feels like a reason to add another subplot for no real reason. I created some necessary tension and whatnot, but I still feel they could’ve come up with a more inventive way than to just randomly insert sequences like that to pad the time and story.
Really I just keep coming back to the “episode of a TV show” when I think about this film. It has the crazy guest star that sucks up most of the time (Buck), the comfortable and easily recognizable main cast that adds an anchor to the setting and…well, that’s it. The film is astonishingly light on its toes when it comes to plot depth and aside from the random adult-oriented jokes (of which there are quite a few good ones…as well as one you could possibly read a bit into with the Scrat and Scratte plot which is as hilarious as the past Scrat outings) the majority of this film will just be enjoyed by the younger audience it was originally meant for. Sure, adults will perk up when something naughty is alluded to, but most of the time they’ll be snoozing.
At least until Buck hops on screen, because he really adds a whole bunch of fun to the film. Although this has been called the “end” of the trilogy, there was no such feeling at the end of it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth film come down the pike. Maybe a film that focuses solely on Buck and Scrat…I’d go for that. Worth a Rental.
When you pick up this release, be prepared for some heft. The Blu-ray version arrives in a standard width Elite Blu-ray case but boasts a series of paper inserts, three discs, and an embossed cardboard slipcase. So there are plenty of discs inside the case (one Blu-ray, one DVD, and one Digital Copy) and the usual adverts for Blu-ray and other Ice Age related products. The DVD edition arrives in a single disc white amaray case with an insert and advertisement for CHECK THIS, which is incredibly odd to me as that movie is old. There’s an alternate side-by-side pack that has the Scrat Pack attached, but if you get the Blu-ray edition all of that is included on the Blu-ray disc anyway.
For this review I’ll be tackling the DVD edition which boasts a very nice transfer with very little compression popping up. This isn’t terribly surprising, however, as aside from a commentary there isn’t anything on the DVD-only release. But, still, the video is very nice looking and those who haven’t upgraded to Blu-ray will be satisfied with the transfer…but those capable of Blu-ray playing should just go get that version as it looks simply amazing. As far as the DD5.1 track goes…well, like the Blu’s 7.1 DTS-HD MA track, I wasn’t too impressed with it either. Heavy in the front channels and light on the surrounds. This doesn’t make it a bad track…just a rather dull one.
Extras are limited, as previously noted, and includes a sole Filmmaker Commentary. On tap are Director Carlos Saldanha, co-director Mike Thurmeier, producers John Donkin and Lori Forte, art director Michael Knapp, supervising animator Galen Tan Chu, and character designer Peter DeSève, who make for a very technical and rather dull commentary. Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of cool information here if you’re into animation, but even as a fan of animation I found this one to be a bit tedious.
Overall not a bad disc, but since I didn’t get the Scrat Pack bundle, this probably isn’t the best review to look at for a solid consensus on the extras. Either way you cut it, however, if you’re going to get this film then the Blu really is the way to go—you get a DVD copy of the film for the non-Blu-ray enabled rooms in your house and one stunning transfer. Plus all of those other extras, should you be so inclined. So this DVD is really just a Rental if you want to be sure before plunking down cash on the whole shebang…but even then you can probably rent the Blu-ray too, so maybe it’s best to just skip this single release altogether.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.