Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs jumps the shark and nukes the fridge in every way possible.
As we begin this third adventure, we learn Ellie (Queen Latifah) is pregnant and soon to give birth. Strike one for the shark as kids are an immediate warning sign of drained ideas.
Sid (John Leguizamo) finds a trio of eggs to call his own. Out pop three adorable baby dinosaurs for him to care for. Strike two, as the cuteness factor is desperately trying to make up for the lack of laughs.
Strike three, appropriately enough, is the 3-D aspect, oddly missing from the Blu-ray. As with any series, whether geared towards kids or adults, adding a gimmick reeks of desperation. Let us not forget past mistakes such as Jaws 3-D.
Strike four, passing over the shark and moving into nuclear blast territory, is the focus on a side character. Scrat (Chris Wedge) is enormously popular, a prehistoric squirrel desperately trying to keep hold of what must be the final nut in all of the ice age. His antics are extended, now given a female squirrel as a protagonist to his mayhem named Scrattee (Karen Disher).
That’s fine, but most of their battle takes place away from the main characters. It stalls the story, one that focuses on the mismatched herd trying to find Sid in a dinosaur-infested undergound lair. You feel for Scrat who has been trying for three movies to snap that final food source, but you also can’t ignore that it stops the film cold to provide a laugh or two at the most. In previous films, it was a mild diversion. Here, it becomes its own plot thread.
To its credit, Ice Age 3 is not a total failure, and it is at least a small step up from the bore fest that was The Meltdown back in 2006. A rather startling yet funny amount of adult humor (“That’s her tail”) doesn’t distract from a third act that wears the audience down without much purpose.
Buck (Simon Pegg) is the latest addition to the cast, living life to take down a massive carnivorous dinosaur roaming the land. He guides the main, familiar cast through the underground, and not much else. His quest seems to exist to provide the writers with an easy out when the next sequel doesn’t include him, which given the box office response to Dawn of the Dinosaurs, is undoubtedly underway.
Considering we’ve been given dinosaurs, kids, crazed squirrels, and a cuteness factor through the roof, Ice Age does not have room left to grow, unless that baby mammoth turns into a teenager. In that case, expect the next entry to take a tone shift toward drama, where the rebellious teenager challenges her parents for dominance of the land. At least that would feel fresh.
Dawn of Dinosaurs appears a bit flat by design, lacking depth or rich, concentrated blacks. The source appears slightly soft, although definition in the fur of the various mammals is rather impressive. Rocks are nicely textured, and clarity is excellent.
Aliasing is small concern, particularly troublesome on Manny’s tusks. Contrast is bright, although colors are subdued. Even with the lush plant life of the underground forest, greens and reds are dull. The fluorescent lava late in the film finally shows off a bit, although by then it is too late. This is a clean and clear, certainly digital, AVC encode, but a disappointing design regardless.
The highlight of a DTS-HD 7.1 effort is undoubtedly the bass. Footsteps, falling rocks, crashing trees, and deep, bellowing roars are incredibly powerful. A wide front soundstage is impressive, with positional dialogue used frequently. It nicely tracks movement to the sides, a great moment occurring as Sid runs across the frame after trying to milk a non-female creature.
Oddly, again by design, the rear channels are sparsely populated. Non-action scenes carry little if any ambiance. Some fine echoes and a nicely bleeding score are noted, yet with all four channels in use, there should be more activity.
The finale (or at least one of them) involving a pterodactyl chase is wonderfully full, with birds pushing into each channel as they move through the frame. Some small cues, including roars or Buck’s dive from a tree (in which he calls out his move prior) occur in specific rear channels, while the others are ignored.
Unfortunately, since Fox has not sent out retail screeners for review, this is based on the rental exclusive edition, which contains no extras beyond trailers. The review will be updated if an retail release is obtained.