Can it really be seven years since the first Ice Age was released? For many, this film was a surprise hit for families across the globe. In particular it heralded the popularity of a squirrel (as yet unnamed onscreen) known as Scrat
. His desperate attempts at getting the unobtainable acorn was interjected into a main plot containing a mammoth, an annoying but hilarious sloth and a smilodon (sabre-toothed cat).
This was followed a four years later with Ice Age: The Meltdown where some unnecessary and annoying characters were included into the fold. These included the opossums Crash and Eddie, along with Ellie (a female mammoth with an identity complex voiced by Queen Latifah).
So after seven years of waiting, can Blue Sky Studios actually get it right? Can they make a better film than the one it followed? Can Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs match up to the popularity of the original? None of these questions will be answered in any specific order and probably not at all the forthcoming review.
Beneath the Ice Age lies a world where dinosaurs still rule the Earth, a deranged weasel named Buck has taken on the role of Tarzan and Sid the sloth has become a mother. The whole gang reunite with some new faces to rescue Sid from motherhood.
The Ice Age series (for me) has never pushed any envelopes (or boundaries -for those of you who haven't a clue what I'm on about). They seem happy to entertain as children’s films and keep the “family” element truly in the background. This is an interesting thought as it must have occurred to the studio that fathers and mothers accompany their children to watch their films. The inclusion of the always amusing Scrat is a testament to that, along with the subtle banter between the main characters. Unfortunately as the films have progressed, it seems that the “remember the adults” philosophy has been forgotten and the focus has been firmly on the children.
You could argue that Pixar (a rival company) don’t make children films; they make family films and if you would compare both their release this year (Up!) and that of Ice Age 3, then the differences are very clear. That is not to say that Ice Age 3 is not a good film. It is just a good children's film; there's a big difference
The Ice Age series now have a vast amount of vocal talents in their films now with Dawn of the Dinosaurs boasting: Seann William Scott
, Queen Latifah, Ray Romano
, Josh Peck, John Leguizamo
, Denis Leary
, Bill Hader
and (newcomer) Simon Pegg
as Buck; not forgetting Chris Wedge who makes the appropriate noises for Scrat. That is a lot of names to put on screen at the same time and I’ll admit to it feeling a little overcrowded on many occasions. This is overcome for a short time by splitting them up into groups but you feel that without the comical interplay between the main characters, something is lost.
The introduction of the know-everything-but-mental Buck is somewhat annoying as nothing seems challenging to the characters on screen. Thankfully this character actually becomes likeable after the occassion when he admits to “knowing he was mad when he woke up married to a pineapple”. You cannot help but feel that he was a temporary replacement for Sid throughout the story which is unfortunate as John Leguizamo’s sloth is already extremely amusing by himself.
In Dawn of the Dinosaurs even Scrat is given some company (competitor) in the form of Scratte
. This female squirrel is as obsessed with acorns as our favourite hoarder and distracts him often enough to gain the upper hand. In fact this interplay between these characters makes you even feel sorry for the poor neglected acorn at one point! As ever the squirrel (and his new friend) are welcome additions to the tale.
Humour is abound in the film (as expected) but it is light and dignified giggles that you will be making. No sudden outbursts of pure hilarity are here I’m afraid. This is ultimately a shame as these films are capable of doing so; another example of not pushing the envelope.
It is often that I wonder why studios continue with stories when they are bound by too restricting characters. Why not just start another film with more elaborate personalities? Of course it is down to money and the fact that the Ice Age films are always a guaranteed audience. It is sad then that more effort cannot be put into the storyline; surely the most important element of them all.
Above all in animation if the plot is flimsy and light, it gets magnified along the way through production. It doesn’t matter how good the banter is between the characters, if the plot catalyst is not good enough and the conclusion is somewhat lacking, the whole film is let down. Every single Ice Age film has been lacking along the way (the second film being the worst contender). In fact only the first film nearly got it right. I had hoped for something to tug the heart strings at the end of the film such as a sloth, a mammoth and a sabre-toothed cat being discovered trapped in ice (sometime in the future) whilst holding each other for warmth. I always felt that this beautiful image was so sorely missing from it.
As every film gets released I hope that I will witness something like the above or a bold move in plot to get the emotions flowing. You shouldn’t need to dumb-down for children audiences and for a film to be a true classic it has to tick many boxes (and not just the comedy element). It doesn’t matter how amusing a film is, without an opposing emotion it is unlikely to remember further than ten years on.
If you enjoyed Ice Age 1, then you’ll like this. If you enjoyed Ice Age: The Meltdown then seek therapy and if you are just aching to see more of Manny, Sid and Diego’s antics then watch it. Just make sure you bring a child with you as for each sequel that is made, the excuses for seeing it as a lone adult become even less convincing!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5