- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dawn of the Dinosaurs”: They were just hanging out in a tropical land slightly under the Earth’s icy crust, waiting for our favorite mastodons and their furry pals to drop in for some wacky adventures.

One wonders just how much damage this picture is going to do to the youngest generation’s understanding of prehistory. Considering how many members of my cohort still think scientists can clone dinosaurs from amber-encased mosquitoes, archaeologists probably should start worrying.

“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” picks up where “Ice Age: The Meltdown” left off. Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah), the last two wooly mammoths on the face of the planet, are expecting their first child. The prospective new arrival has put some strain on the gang, however. Saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) thinks the domesticity will cause him to lose even more of his edge, while Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) hadn’t realized the family dynamic would lead to his eventual exclusion.

Depressed, Sid wanders away and stumbles upon a trio of dinosaur eggs: When the T-Rexes hatch, their mother comes to retrieve them and returns them (along with Sid) to the underground dinosaur paradise. Manny, Ellie and Diego must brave the dangerous land - and follow a crazed weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg) who has lived amongst the dinosaurs for years - to save their pal.

This is the first “Ice Age” movie to be released in 3-D, and it feels as if the artists haven’t quite mastered the technique yet: At one point, an animal is running and kicks up some dirt, which comes flying out at the audience until it gets stuck on the screen, mimicking the effect of hitting the camera lens in a live-action feature.

Animated filmmakers who use 3-D often describe the effect as a window, a way to give the audience a greater sense of depth into the picture. They do this to differentiate from schlocky horror films such as “My Bloody Valentine” that treat the effect as an excuse to chuck images at the audience and make it duck. This is the first time I can think of a filmmaker taking that description so literally: The screen serves as a pane of glass in a window, allowing the audience to look out at the action with greater depth while simultaneously blocking certain images from reaching in.

The 3-D doesn’t detract from the child-friendly comedy and the humorous voice work. “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” works on its own terms, as a distraction for the children and an inoffensive, if unfulfilling, time at the theater for their parents.

..1/2

TITLE: “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”

RATING: PG (mild rude humor and peril)

CREDITS: Directed by Carlos Saldanha and Mike Thurmeier

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

WEB SITE: http://www.iceagemovie.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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