Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a lot like an annoying relative. It shows up uninvited, sticks around for too long and thinks it’s funny when it really isn’t. This third entry in the venerable franchise appears seemingly out of nowhere, resurrecting a series that many had long considered dead. If only it had stayed that way.
The film starts with Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) who are expecting a child, which means things are changing and the group is splitting up. Diego (Denis Leary) insists that things will be different because of the baby and decides to go off on his own while Sid (John Leguizamo) is upset at the notion of abandonment until he stumbles upon three eggs which he takes up as his own. Little does he know that they are dinosaur eggs and their mother is coming to find them, which puts Sid in considerable danger. After finding this out, the remainder of the group decides to find and help Sid, which hurls them into an incredible adventure with a creature named Buck (Simon Pegg), a self proclaimed dinosaur hunter, which takes them into an unknown underground world where dinosaurs roam.
I saw the first Ice Age back in 2002 and wasn’t particularly impressed, reserving only a faint remembrance of it in my mind. I never bothered with the second and therefore am not up to speed with its mythology. The reason I bring this up is because Dawn of the Dinosaurs does little to bring in new fans, which is essentially what I am, and instead opts to jump directly into the story, not so much introducing the characters as simply plopping them all together with the assumption that we already have a familiarity with them. That was its first big mistake.
Going into this film not privy to its existing characters and story arc was a daunting task in itself because it left me trying to piece together the personality puzzles that would explain why the characters acted the way they did. What didn’t help was the way it brought up plot points only to abandon them by the time the credits rolled. At the beginning of the movie, Diego is leaving the group due to what seems to be a number of reasons, including his failing eyesight and lack of stamina. It looked like this could be a crucial turning point in the film, detailing why Diego’s apparent depression is driving him away from the ones he loves, eventually working as a way for him to surmount his shortcomings, but that isn’t the case. In fact, his actual problem is never even explained. The error the film makes is assuming that the fact that these problems simply exist is enough to warrant a character breakthrough, but it’s not. Why is his eyesight failing and his stamina decreasing? Is it old age? Is he sick? It never explains.
One thing I’ve consistently said about voice acting is that it works best when the actors are unobtrusive, meaning that their voices shouldn’t be instantly recognizable because it creates a separation between reality and the fictional world in front of you. There are exceptions to the rule if the voice simply fits that specific character, like Seth Rogen as Bob in the recent Monsters Vs. Aliens, but most often than not, voice acting should be left to the unknowns. Unfortunately, Dawn of the Dinosaurs doesn’t follow this rule. Instead of hearing the characters, I usually heard their respective celebrity counterpart. The problem is that most of these voices contributed nothing to the characters. A thousand different voices could have been used for Romano’s wooly mammoth. He brings nothing that the plethora of other voice actors couldn’t have. His usage was unnecessary, as were the talents of Queen Latifah and Dennis Leary, who are both particularly uninspired.
One big reason this is so disappointing is because the voices don’t change. The actors don’t tweak their voices to fit the character and instead simply talk normally. The sole exceptions are John Leguizamo as Sid and an unrecognizable Simon Pegg as the dinosaur hunter, Buck. His character is the Puss in Boots of the Ice Age franchise, charming and funny with a perfectly fitting voice. He is one of the main reasons this movie was kept afloat instead of sinking under its own mediocre execution.
All of these problems could have been overlooked had the comedy worked. Children will undoubtedly love the slapstick humor and the silly visuals, but the whole ordeal is too silly for adults and eventually becomes a taxing event with embarrassingly unfunny jokes, including a parody on the jealous lover scenario where one depressingly watches his or her companion as he or she embraces someone else lovingly. The joke this time is that the jealous lover is a walnut, who has been abandoned by a squirrel in favor of another of his species. These jokes weren’t just bad, they were wretched.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs aims high, but can’t reach the bar set by so many others before it. It’s not that it’s terrible; it’s just an unfortunate waste. There’s been no shortage of quality animated movies for the masses to ingest this year. Why waste your time with this one?
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs receives 1.5/5