Review: How Ice Age gets in your face with the 3-D Dawn of the Dinosaurs

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

3-D has added more visual gags to the third Ice Age film, but it hasn't changed its general aesthetic or tone. The third comer to the CGI animation world after Pixar and Dreamworks, Ice Age was always good, but not great. So Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is another solid family comedy, no better or worse for the new 3-D style.

This time, Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are expecting their first mammoth baby. Diego (Denis Leary) feels he's no longer needed in the group and so, facing his tiring old age, decides to leave. To ensure his place in the new family, Sid finds some eggs he tries to mother, but when they hatch into baby dinosaurs, trouble begins. The dinosaur mom reclaims her babies and takes Sid with her, so the rest of the gang have to journey to their secret dinosaur world to save their friend and learn something along the way.

I have a lot of respect for the way they incorporated dinosaurs in the film. They're certainly under no obligation, as a cartoon, to be historically accurate. However, Ellie acknowledges that dinosaurs are supposed to be extinct, and the explanation that they exist in a magical world that historians never discovered makes perfect sense, in a fantasy movie at least. And the babies are so cute.

The best part of Ice Age remains Scrat. Related to the main story tangentially at best, the antics of the squirrel-rat trying to get his acorn reflect classic silent comedy. Except for sound effects and screams, Scrat does not talk. This time, his comedy interludes involve a female with whom he competes for the nuts.

The film perhaps suffers from trying to use 3-D too much. Many of the Scrat bits, and the adventures of the main characters, involve falling from great heights and floating in mid-air. This way, they play with the 3-D space, but it becomes repetitive—although, by the third film, those may be the only gags they had left to explore anyway.

Along the way, the main group addresses issues of family with good values and heartfelt warmth. Their dino-adventure is exciting and funny. It's not particularly memorable, but if it winds up in your kids' DVD player on infinite repeat, it will be more tolerable than some of the other riff-raff of the CGI glut.