Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha (“Ice Age: The Meltdown”) and Mike Thurmeier (debut)
Written by: Michael Berg (“Ice Age”), Peter Ackeman (“Ice Age”), Mike Reiss (“The Simpsons Movie”), and Yoni Brenner (“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”)
Even in a technologically-advanced age in cinema, watching an animated movie in 3-D is never enough if there isn’t an interesting story to match its computer-generated imagery. For every “Coraline” there’s always a “Chicken Little” or “Fly Me to the Moon” that will have you wondering if studios are depending on audiences to simply visit the theater for the free plastic glasses or if there’s an actual narrative moviegoers over the age of nine can also enjoy.
With “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” the third installment of the prehistoric series, you don’t have to speculate on the intentions of 20th Century Fox. While 2002’s original movie seemed insignificant in the midst of Pixar’s “Monster’s Inc.” and “Finding Nemo,” and 2006’s “Ice Age: The Meltdown” tied in too bizarrely with Al Gore’s global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and the Hurricane Katrina tragedy the year before, “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” comes with no strings attached and a whole lot of solid humor.
Unlike the first two films, you won’t have to wait around for Scrat, the half-squirrel, half-rat hybrid who is always in pursuit of an ever-elusive nut, to be entertained. In “Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” Scrat is back, of course, this time with an eyelash-fluttering female rival who also craves an icy acorn snack. However, Scrat’s antics, again presented in short interludes throughout the film, are only part of the delightful animation.
Returning to form the awkward-looking herd of mammals are Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah), a wooly mammoth couple now expecting their first furry baby, Diego (Dennis Leary), a saber-toothed tiger who is going through a mid-life crisis, and Sid (John Leguizamo, who should be given some kind of award for his voice work in all three films), a lovable sloth hoping to start his own family like his tusked friends.
Sid gets his chance to prove he would make a good father when he stumbles upon three dinosaur eggs. Not knowing there are dinosaurs inside, he takes responsibility for the brood by drawing faces on their shells and appropriately names them Eggbert, Shelley, and Yoko. When they hatch, however, they’re Tyrannosaurus-like appearance isn’t the only thing that gives them away. Mama T-Rex shows up looking for her newborns much to the chagrin of Sid.
With more baby species in “Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” you’d think that the sequel might rely on the cuteness of its new characters to carry the load. But others including Sean William Scott and Josh Peck, who return as the comedy relief possum duo Crash and Eddie (far less annoying than they were in “Meltdown”), and newcomer Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) as an adventurous, eye-patch wearing weasel, contribute to the comedy. Even SNLer Bill Hader makes a memorable voice cameo as a gazelle that mocks a predator after he outruns him in an open field. (Definitely a part of the natural world National Geographic doesn’t show you).
Overall, “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is the best of the trilogy and should entertain both children and adults alike. But let’s be honest; 20th Century Fox needs to quit while they’re ahead with this specific adventure.