Monday, July 6, 2009

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)



Rating it by non-Pixar standards, the third outing of the prehistoric beasts is an above average fare. Rating by its own standards, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a major improvement on its predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown, the placid sequel to the wonderful Ice Age. This improvement though does not come in the storytelling or character-development, but mostly by simply introducing a wonderful eccentric new character that carries the movie through and through.

Ellie (Queen Latifah) and Manny (Ray Romano) are expecting a baby, and this complicates matters for the herd. When Sid (John Leguizamo) steals three T-Rex eggs to also become a parent, the mother T-Rex carries away Sid along with her young ones to the land before time below all the snow & ice, inhabited by all possible dinosaurs, a Lava-fall and a lush-green landscape that somehow survives without direct sunlight. As the herd goes down to rescue Sid, they come across and are eventually led by Buckminster, or Buck, a zany one-eyed weasel that's part Capt Jack Sparrow, part Indiana Jones and all loony. Chases, close-escapes, helium-induced laughter and similar bonding exercises ensue as they all keep running towards and from.

And Scrat is not alone. His eternal quest for the acorn is disrupted by Scrattè, a femme-fatale of a sabre-tooth squirrel. So now he battles Lady Luck and Scrattè, both of whom appear to be on the same side. Unfortunately, Scrat, the best character of the first movie, has overstayed his welcome, and his idiosyncrasies have now become tiring and annoying. Even his acorn is now more interesting. A hilarious sequence where we see Scrat & Scrattè frolicking as a couple from the POV of the Acorn is the most inventive scene of the movie - the Acorn yearns for the attention of its once avid admirer/fan/stalker.

Ice Age was a wonderful one-off movie when it first released, and the first major studio CGI animated movie that was not by Pixar or Dreamworks. But it became an unnecessary and putrid cash-cow franchise with its sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown. But seven years since the original, Blue Sky productions seems to have caught on with Dreamworks in what makes an interesting/fun (if not good) animated movie - ONE fun character and multiple comedy sketches stuck together to ride the running time. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a fun movie, and may possibly remain so in multiple viewings too. The sequences that bring about this fun-factor are so many and so closely packed, that it may be easy to mix-up their order and still have the same movie. Surely logic was left in the freezer and the movie enjoys its too many coincidences for convenience. Why helium stays at the bottom of a chasm instead of floating to the top or how the T-Rex eggs manage to get to the ice-world or why Dinosaurs (and Scrat & Scrattè) don't talk like all other animals are valid questions. Yet, none of this matters much, the movie entertains and laughter comes as easy as in a good sitcom. It doesn't intend to be anything more.

Much of that laughter comes out loud due to Buck, voiced by Simon Pegg. Like Puss-in-Boots from the Shrek movies, this is a character that justifies its existence just by how watchable he is. Put him in any situation and he'll find a way to keep himself busy. His swashbuckling and eccentricities doused with Pegg's British accent make him extremely watchable. At one point during the search, he holds up his hunting dagger and announces: "Let me tell you about the time I turned a Tyrannosaurus Rex into Tyrannosaurus Rachel"!

This series really does not need any more installments, but if another one is indeed made, as it looks to be, then do away with Scrat. And let's see more of Buck.

My rating --> 3 of 5

This movie is released in UAE in conventional 2D screens only. Elsewhere, you may be lucky to catch this in 3D, which just may add to the experience.

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