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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

(2009) ** 1/2 Pg
87 min. 20th Century Fox Distribution. Directors: Carlos Saldanha, Michael Thurmeier. Cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Simon Pegg.

/content/films/3477/1.jpgI’ve never been a big fan of the Ice Age movies, and certainly they’ve never been big fans of science. But I must admit that by bounding happily into outright science fiction, the third film of the series, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, will work just fine on wide-eyed tots and weary parents glad to take a seat for ninety-four minutes.

Of course, unless you have kids or are a kid, there’s really no imperative to see this CGI-animated adventure. It’s not bad, and it does have the novelty of 3D if you see it in a 3D-equipped theater, but it’s also faintly derivative at every turn: you won’t be bowled over by its creativity and wit. It’s just kinda cute, is all. And of the three Ice Age movies, this may be the most purely enjoyable one, with its frequent action and enough plot threads effectively to serve its whole cast of characters.

This time, Manny the Mammoth and his mate Ellie (voiced by Ray Romano and Queen Latifah) are expecting a child. Saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) is feeling his age when he tries to chase down gazelles. And sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), ever the third wheel, happens upon three dinosaur eggs to occupy him. When he becomes mama to three baby T. rexes, he buys everyone he knows a lot of trouble, mostly in the form of a trip through an anachronistic, subterranean “Lost World” populated by all manner of prehistoric beasts. With locales like the Jungle of Misery, the Plates of Woe, and the Chasm of Death, it shan’t be a stroll in the park.

The themes of parenthood being an adventure and potentially breaking up that old gang of theirs would seem to speak more to the adults than the kids, but it’s a savvy choice to balance all the action and silliness that the kids will be absorbing, and if they learn a bit of empathy for their families, so much the better. The new character this time around is a swashbuckling one-eyed weasel named Buck, short for Buckminster. He’s a clear rip off of Shrek’s Puss in Boots, but as voiced by Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), he’s also pretty darn funny.

Of course, no Ice Age movie would be complete without the spastic acorn-seeking walkabouts of part-squirrel, part-rat Scrat. This time, Scrat has a Pepe le Pew-esque romance with a rodent femme fatale named Scrattè. As penned by at least five writers (including erstwhile Simpsons scribe Mike Reiss), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has enough crisp sight gags, character moments, frantic mayhem, and musical interludes (including an acorn’s internal monologue, which turns out to be “Alone Again (Naturally)”) to box the family crowd into a state of punch-drunk love.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Street date: 10/27/2009

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

With Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, there's no better way to go than Fox's Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy edition, a fully-loaded package offering the best in high-definition picture and sound, as well as a ton of bonus features. The film itself, coming as it does from a hi-def digital source, looks flawless in every regard, and the walloping DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound mix is, well, out of this world. There's just no beating an A/V presentation like this one: visually sharp and vibrant and aurally aggressive.

Features kick off with a filmmaker commentary—featuring Director Carlos Saldanha, co-director Mike Thurmeier, producers John Donkin and Lori Forte, art director Michael Knapp, character designer Peter DeSève, and supervising animator Galen Tan Chu—that reveals the thinking behind this sequel in story and character, how those elements developed over the production process, and some animation tricks of the trade.

Ice Age Storybook Maker (HD) is a kid-friendly feature used to create, save, and share a storybook using select images and film clips.

"Evolution Expedition" (18:24, HD) takes us on educational tours through some Southern Californian science sites: the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, where assistant lab supervisor Trevor Valle and collections manager Christopher Shaw regale us about prehistoric fauna; the Santa Barbara Zoo, where keeper Samantha Ratti, senior keeper Elizabeth Wilson, curator James Traverse, keeper Cortney Collia, keeper Wendy Anderson, and bird curator Rachel Miller show off descendants of the movie's characters; and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, where Dinosaur Institute Director Luis Chiappe adds his expertise.

"Buck: From Easel to Weasel" (7:12, HD) tells you everything you want to know about the newest Ice Age character. Participants include Simon Pegg, Josh Peck, Seann William Scott, director Carlos Saldanha, character designer Peter De Séve, producer John C. Donkin, co-director Michael Thurmeier, co-screenwriter Mike Reiss, and Buck lead animator Hans Dastrup.

"Unearthing the Lost World" (8:41, HD) is a standard-issue featurette polling the cast and crew abot the latest adventure. Interviewees here are Saldanha, Queen Latifah, John Leguizamo, Ray Romano, Donkin, set designer John Townley, set designer Nash Dunnigan, Thurmeier, De Séve, and executive producer Chris Wedge.

Moving on, one will find two "Unfinished Deleted Scenes" (4:33, SD), the music video "Walk the Dinosaur" (1:32, HD), and the "Scrat Shorts" "Gone Nutty - Scrat's Missing Adventure" and "No Time for Nuts" (11:54 with "Play All" option, HD).

An archive of the "Scrat Featurettes" includes "The Saber-Toothed Squirrel: Nature's Nutty Buddy" and "Scrat: From Head to Toe (Learn How to Draw Scrat - Tutorial!)" (10:12 with "Play All" option, SD), "Scrat: Breaking Story" and "Scrat: News Report" (4:19, SD) and "Falling for Scratte" (8:29, HD), with Saldanha, Wedge, Donkin, storyboard artist Karen Disher, De Séve, and senior animator Jeff Gabor.

Last up is an archive of the "FOX Movie Channel Specials": "FOX Movie Channel Presents 'Making a Scene (Ice Age 2)'", "FOX Movie Channel Presents 'In Character with John Leguizamo'", FOX Movie Channel Presents 'In Character with Ray Romano'", FOX Movie Channel Presents 'In Character with Queen Latifah'" and "FOX Movie Channel Presents 'Making a Scene'" (27:54 with "Play All," SD).

The BD offers BD-Live with Live Lookup, an IMDB-powered filmography feature.

Disc Two is a DVD with the feature and filmmaker commentary, while Disc Three houses a Digital Copy. Fox's BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack is the way to complete your Ice Age collection in style.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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