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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (review)

Slushy Mess

It’s kinda like how The Flinstones was really The Honeymooners, except as a prehistoric cartoon. The Ice Age movies are sitcoms, except instead of a homely doofus as the goofy guy married to the impossibly attractive, impossibly forgiving, and yet still endlessly nagging wife, it’s a couple of mammoths with a bachelor sabertooth tiger and a dimbulb ground sloth as the wacky neighbors.

This is how far cartoons have descended in the last decade and a half: The Lion King was Shakespearean. Ice Age is Everybody Loves Raymondean.
This time out, Ray Romano’s (Eulogy, Welcome to Mooseport) Manny the Mammoth is about to be a dad, and you don’t even need to see the movie to know that he’s going to overreact in the most — pardon the pun — cartoonish way to having a baby, which is just about the most perfectly normal thing two higher mammals can do. You don’t need to see the movie to know that there will be jokes about females stressing out about gaining baby weight — “Do you think my ankles look fat?” Manny’s pregnant “wife,” Ellie (the voice of Queen Latifah: The Secret Life of Bees, Mad Money) asks; “What ankles?” he replies; cue laugh track, cue groans. Complications ensue as Diego the tiger is feeling left out; no, not because he’s fighting any carnivorous urges to eat the baby, because he’s not a tiger, remember: he’s Ed Norton. (Diego is voiced by Denis Leary [Recount, Company Man], whose trademark bitter snark is completely avoided here — why else would you cast Leary if not to take advantage of that glorious quality of his?) Further complications ensue as Sid the sloth (the voice of John Leguizamo [Nothing Like the Holidays, Righteous Kill], whom I’d like to hear be this silly in a movie that deserves his talent), also longing for parenthood, adopts three dinosaur eggs to love them and raise as his very own.

Say what? Dinosaur eggs? By Richard Dawkins’ nightmares, have young-earth creationists taken over 20th Century Fox, and are trying to brainwash our children into believing that brontosauruses and woolly mammoths walked the earth together 6,000 years ago? Well, no: there’s a perfectly acceptable fantasy explanation. It’s all to do with a lost world under the ice, where giant reptiles escaped that big meteor and survived (although suspiciously without further evolution) for 64.5 million years.

Oddly, none of that bothers me as much as Ellie’s looking at Sid’s baby T. rexes in wonder and marveling, “I thought those guys were extinct,” because I had no idea mammoths had developed paleontology. And that doesn’t bother me as much as Momma T. rex, when she inevitably comes for her babies, not eating Sid the moment she encounters him. And that doesn’t bother me as much as the jokes about body waxing, accidental penis pulling, and homophobia in what is supposed to be a children’s film.

And none of that bothers me as much as projecting sitcom-dad neuroses onto a cartoon mammoth: “Guys don’t talk to other guys about guy problems,” Manny must explain patiently to Ellie, as if she hadn’t been coping with his idiocy for years; “they just punch each other in the shoulder.” Here’s a few things that we should let go extinct: the stereotypes of men as unemotional idiots and women as clueless nags that must be endured as a curse of the fates, or something.

There are bright spots. The Scrat, the sorta-squirrel, sorta-rat creature who has eyes for nothing but acorns, finds a lady love this time around, a Scrat with long eyelashes and blue eyeshadow and sexy fingers (*sigh*) and a killer instinct for acorn gathering herself. But Simon Pegg (Star Trek, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) brings the only inspired voice performance as Buck, a weasel lost in the lost world and gone slightly mad in his attempts to survive a realm of killer dinosaurs who’d love to snack on him. He gets all the best lines, too, as if the writers were tired of the existing characters and could manage to raise their flagging enthusiam for the series only with his fresh ferrety blood. Buck’s hilarious, and in his own unique way, not as a sorry reflection of a worn-out clichés.


MPAA: rated PG for some mild rude humor and peril

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Nice review, as usual. Just one note: Typo in Ray Romano’s name.

  • SaintAndy

    You must have written this in a hurry, because there are other typos as well:

    “What ankles?” he repiles ..replies, right?

    and

    the sorta-squirrel, sorta-rat creature who has eyes for nothing for acorns … I think you meant but.

  • Oddly, none of that bothers me as much as Ellie’s looking at Sid’s baby T. rexes in wonder and marveling, “I thought those guys were extinct,” because I had no idea mammoths had developed paleontology.

    Wow, MaryAnn. This is a tad literalistic, don’t you think? While we’re at it, I guess we should point out that Mammoth’s can’t really talk, either.

    Also, it feels kinda like you’re personally upset at how bad this movie sucks, and yet you’ve gone ahead and given it the Yellow Light. There’s no way it’s really worth a rental, right? Not even if we have kids?

    Here’s a few things that we should let go extinct: the stereotypes of men as unemotional idiots and women as clueless nags that must be endured as a curse of the fates, or something.

    You’re right on, here. Every sitcom is the same these days; that’s why I don’t ever watch them (also I hate laugh tracks / live studio audiences). Actually I am kinda glad you’re planting your righteous flag so frequently these days. Even though some of your recent reviews have seemed a bit overly harsh, it’s probably better to be too critical than too forgiving.

  • Well now I’m going to take issue with your “descent of cartoons” bit at the beginning of the review. There is certainly crap out there just like there was when The Lion King came out. But today we also have Pixar. I just rewatched Wall-E last night. Don’t you dare try to tell me that isn’t at least as good as The Lion King. (Please note that I am not knocking The Lion King. I love that movie, and I just saw it on Broadway last year, which was excellent.)

  • Perhaps if these prehistoric animals had lived in New York City, she’d like it better…

  • Of course, they could also live in Chicago or Los Angeles, but that would just be too anachronistic…

  • Tonio Kruger (Wed Jul 01 09, 11:03AM)

    Perhaps if these prehistoric animals had lived in New York City, she’d like it better…

    Ha! Well, if that’s the case, I’ve got some good rumor news…

    Even though Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs hasn’t even hit theaters yet, it seems a fourth Ice Age film has been well underway or the past few months. [SOURCE’S CONNECTION TO PROJECT DELETED BY AICN] friend of mine says the 4th installment sees Manny, Sid, Diego, Ellie and Scrat frozen solid and accidentally defrosted in a museum in present day.

    At this stage the film is being called “Ice Age Th4w”. Guess that sees the end of any future Ice Age movies being set in prehistoric times but this could be an interesting new direction for the franchise.
    – source: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/41352

  • Chris

    I was lukewarm until I saw “Simon Pegg.”

    I’m STILL lukewarm, but I might actually watch it at some point now

  • Accounting Ninja

    The whole Manny thing is ridiculous because (SPOILER FOR FIRST MOVIE)

    He’s been through this before. He had a wife and child. They died.

    I hope that they at least address that. Yes?

  • Leah

    Will the forth one have Peaches? (the baby of Ellie and Manny)i hope they do!! Ice Age Dawn Of The Dinosaurs was a great movie i Give it 5 stars lol *****

  • ushtate

    On your list of the bad things about this movie you forgot to criticize the “herd”. The old “book of Genesis” problem of who’s gonna be the father of Peaches’ babies (for example) is there especially given the “preserve the species” banter in the prior movie. I would think that since the “Feminist” movement has THE SUPERIOR sexual morality to all other times and places (imaginary AND “real”)this would be a noteworthy bad issue in a little kids movie. The “what’s a family? subject matter (and “Who’s the father/mother”) seems to recur quite often in this Ice Age series

  • MaryAnn

    Fixed the typos.

    Wow, MaryAnn. This is a tad literalistic, don’t you think? While we’re at it, I guess we should point out that Mammoth’s can’t really talk, either.

    Perhaps if these prehistoric animals had lived in New York City, she’d like it better…

    Really, everyone? Really?

    On your list of the bad things about this movie you forgot to criticize the “herd”. The old “book of Genesis” problem of who’s gonna be the father of Peaches’ babies (for example) is there especially given the “preserve the species” banter in the prior movie. I would think that since the “Feminist” movement has THE SUPERIOR sexual morality to all other times and places (imaginary AND “real”)this would be a noteworthy bad issue in a little kids movie. The “what’s a family? subject matter (and “Who’s the father/mother”) seems to recur quite often in this Ice Age series

    I have no idea what the fuck any of this means…

  • Erik Goodwyn

    Me either.

    Anyway, I found Manny’s stereotypic resistance to emotional discussions quite tiresome myself. MJ and I have gone rounds over gender stereotypes in movies, as I think she goes overboard with the feminist flag-waving (though sometimes it’s justified), but I agree with her here–enough already! I literally fell asleep in this one.

  • Ushtate

    Well my scattered comment (7/5/09) admittedly was intended to get a response like “what the fuck”. Your review just seemed so far below your usually extraordinary level. That’s what happens when you write nonsense. Some of your fans (like me) think – “what the fuck” did that mean?
    But for someone who claims her 100 favorite movies include Toy Story. Roger Rabbit and Muppet Movie are you really honestly offended by a “homely doofus” a “dimbulb” and a bachelor? And if Miss Piggy wasn’t a nag and an offensive female stereotype, then what? And do you contend that most of the fantasy movies in your Top 100 list have “realistic” premises? No kidding? On what planet exactly?
    Come on. You can’t find anything more unique than the lack of “carnivorous urges” in cartoon animal characters? My silly crack about feminist morality was intended to match your silly references to “young-earth creationists” and “paleontology” and penis pulling. Somehow it’s hard to believe that “penis pulling” bothers you in a kid’s movie but inter-species love ( Roger Rabbit and Beauty & Beast) does not.
    Was a whole bottle of wine involved in this review?

  • Pedro

    So this sounds like a red rather than a yellow light? So why isn’t it?

  • Really, everyone? Really?

    Well, I can’t speak for the others, but after seeing you praise the equally mediocre Madagascar movies simply because they involve animals in NYC, it’s difficult for me to not wonder about your perspective at times.

    But this is undoubtedly yet another point on which we disagree.

    I did like the comparison to Everybody Loves Raymond–even though some of your favorite Dreamworks movies might qualify for such comparisons themselves.

    Was a whole bottle of wine involved in this review?

    It’s one thing to disagree with her or to defend your own opinions.

    But remarks like this are not cool.

  • MaryAnn

    after seeing you praise the equally mediocre Madagascar movies simply because they involve animals in NYC

    But it’s not a matter of “simply.” It’s apples and oranges, even if on the surface the two movies seem related merely because they’re animated and about anthropomorphic animals.

    And just to be clear, it’s only the first *Madagascar* movie (which *I* obviously DON’T consider mediocre) that works for me.

    And if Miss Piggy wasn’t a nag and an offensive female stereotype, then what? And do you contend that most of the fantasy movies in your Top 100 list have “realistic” premises? No kidding? On what planet exactly?

    See, this is the kind of thing that makes me say, “Really? REALLY?” It’s ALWAYS about context. Piggy is CONSTANTLY getting her comeuppance in a way that, say, Manny does not. Manny is embraced as “normal” and “ordinary,” while Piggy is the regular butt of humor as a result of her stereotypical behavior. NO ONE would look at Piggy and conclude that she’s behaving in a way that those around her embrace. NO ONE would look at Manny and conclude that we’re not supposed to love him, the adorable lug, all the time.

    And it’s NOT that fantasy has to have a “realistic” premise, it’s that it has to have a premise that works on its own terms.

    Come on. You can’t find anything more unique than the lack of “carnivorous urges” in cartoon animal characters?

    No, you come on. What’s the point of a cartoon tiger if he’s not at least a little tigerish? That’s one difference between the *Ice Age* movies and the *Madagascar* movies: the animals in the latter do conform in SOME ways to the kinds of behavior you’d expect from their species. Don’t you think Diego’s embracing of Manny and his family would have been more poignant if he had to overcome his natural instincts — and was able to do so — to remain friends with them? That’s what’s so wonderful about the first *Madagascar*: it’s a metaphor for overcoming knee-jerk bigotry. The *Ice Age* movies are a metaphor that (in part) gives a pat on the head to the most tedious stereotypes of male-female relationships.

    My silly crack about feminist morality was intended to match your silly references to “young-earth creationists” and “paleontology” and penis pulling.

    So “feminist morality” is worthy of as much consideration as “young-earth creationists”?

    Is there ANY basis upon which you would criticize a cartoon? Or are cartoons automatically exempt from criticism because they’re “just” cartoons?

    Somehow it’s hard to believe that “penis pulling” bothers you in a kid’s movie but inter-species love ( Roger Rabbit and Beauty & Beast) does not.

    It’s hard to believe that you don’t see the differences. Sid flippin’ yanks on a yak’s penis for no purpose other than making people laugh at the concept. But the other films you mentioned use their concepts for, again, creating richer metaphors about humanity.

    Seriously, do you not get that?

  • ushtate

    Take your pick- “clitoral”, “butt-hurt” or just “thin-skinned”? It seems that we Americans are developing a world-class ability to dish it out, while making sure each individual reserves a hypocritical right to tell everyone else what’s “not cool”. You’re no fun at all. I’ll just stay out permanently. (By the way MaryAnn’s describes herself as a writer who “drinks too much wine”). A damn good writer too in my opinion. Bye.

  • MaryAnn

    So this sounds like a red rather than a yellow light? So why isn’t it?

    For the dinosaurs, which are always cool, and for Buck. And not because I was prejudiced by Simon Pegg’s voice. I didn’t even realize at the time who was voicing him. I spent the whole movie going, “Who IS doing that voice? He’s totally awesome!” and didn’t learn it was Pegg until the credits rolled.

    Buck is well written, too.

  • MaryAnn

    Take your pick- “clitoral”, “butt-hurt” or just “thin-skinned”?

    Oh, please do explain yourself. Is it in some way meant to be insulting to suggest that one possesses a clitoris?

  • ushtate

    I clicked back to see if anyone said “goodbye and GFY” and lo-and-behold it’s MaryAnn herself.
    It’s clear I don’t belong, but you are the best film critic on the internet so I can’t resist popping a ‘MaryAnn pill’ now and then.
    In answer to your not-so-snarky statement/question:
    According to the internet’s “Urban Dictionary” here are some common uses of the following words:
    clitoral – Being over sensitive, too easily offended or hurt, similar to a clitoris.
    butt-hurt – Taking offense at something and getting pissy and dramatic about it.
    thin-skinned – Quick to take offense.
    Bye.

  • @ushtate:

    so what then, would the definition of “penile” be? unable to carry on a coherent, non-threatening, non-insulting dialogue?

    except, that would insult half the human race, wouldn’t it?

  • Victor Plenty

    Bronxbee, your response rocks. Hard.

    (Continuing my quest to learn the intricacies of the single entendre…)

  • JoshB

    Ur so dumb MaryAnn. And oversensitive. But I totally luv u and think ur the awesomist. Sniff, I guess u don’t want me here, you clitoral killjoy. I’ll be going now, and I won’t come back…except maybe to check on ur responses and tell u how cool and butt-hurt u are.

    Ushtate, your 7/5/09 post was completely incomprehensible. You seem to be claiming that this was deliberate, but seriously, it might as well have been written in cuneiform.

  • MaryAnn

    Only a man would suggest that a clitoris is *over*sensitive.

    popping a ‘MaryAnn pill’ now and then.

    I must use that in the “status” bar above…

  • Why do I keep thinking of Happy-Go-Lucky all of a sudden?

  • Pedro

    In all honesty, i liked this one. I think it fully deserves a green light.

    I had been catching up on Ice Age 2 just the day before, and its supreme crappiness almost put me off of watching 3. I’m glad i did. Me, my mum and my sis were in fits the whole way through, particularly during the helium-inhaling scenes. Crash and Eddie singing “The Chipmunk Song” was
    priceless! Sid really came into his own as a character, too, which was nice to see.

    Smart referencing (the Death Star and AT-AT battles from Star Wars in particular) and well-written dialogue did the rest. It may not be one for the ages, but it’s a damn enjoyable piece of cinema that, unlike IA2, is not “just for kids”.

    Oh, and i’ve found my best animated quote of the year. Sid: “i’m a single mother of three! You could show some understanding!” For comic timing, delivery and appropriateness, that one’s going to be hard to beat, even outside of animation.

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