Andy Bockelman: ‘Ice Age’ is cool family entertainment
'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs'
2.5 out of 4 stars; 94 minutes; Starring the voices of: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo and Queen Latifah. Now playing at the West Theater.
Parents, when it comes to prehistoric fun, you have a choice – either wait for the “The Land Before Time 35” to be released on DVD, or wrangle the kids to see “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”
The most unusual herd of all time is about to add a new member. Mammoths Manny and Ellie (voices of Ray Romano, Queen Latifah) are anticipating the birth of their baby, and with all their attention diverted, their pals are feeling neglected. Sabretooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) makes the excuse that he is not meant for babysitting, while Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) longs for a family all his own.
He gets his wish when he finds a seemingly abandoned nest containing eggs which are nearly the size of his entire body.
Upon their hatching, Sid finds three new bundles of joy, complete with leathery skin and rows of razor-like teeth, who mimic everything he does. But before the quality time gets going, the real mommy – thought to be extinct – shows up, and she’s not happy.
This leads Manny, Ellie and the rest of the gang to discover the subterranean jungle existing beneath their feet, and only with the help of the single mammal (Simon Pegg) living there can they hope to save Sid from the reptilian denizens of the underworld.
Clearly comfortable in his role after two previous portrayals, Romano draws on his sitcom roots to play the doting dad/harried husband in what may as well be called “Everybody Loves Manny,” with Latifah cutely filling in for Patricia Heaton in a pinch.
Leary is, as usual, take him or leave him as Diego, becoming less and less of the tough guy as the series progresses, but people must like the tame kitty more than the savage cat.
Leguizamo is funny as ever as lisping lamebrain Sid, but he has some serious competition for drawing laughs.
Pegg steals the show as half-mad, half-insane soldier of fortune Buckminster, a schizophrenic weasel with the voice and equipment of Mick “Crocodile” Dundee, the eye patch and daring of Snake Plissken and the mind frame of Col. Kurtz.
Despite his unstable disposition, Buck leads the group across the perils of the newfound dinosaur world, including the Chasm of Death – once referred to as the Big Smelly Crack, tee hee – and the Plates of Woe – Whoa! – all the while keeping them aware of the threat of the biggest, meanest thunder lizard of all: Rudy.
The merit of the “Ice Age” franchise is intact, with the latest release driving home the atypical family image it has upheld since beginning in 2002. Although there’s an overabundance of snot, vomit and other such gags, it’s all in good fun.
Even better is the larger role played by nonverbal character Scrat (Chris Wedge), who should have his own spin-off. The squirrel-rat finds a new love in his life apart from the elusive acorn, which has tried his patience since the first film.
Unfortunately, it’s a battle of the sexes as wily female Scratte (Karen Disher) proves that love does indeed hurt, by torturing and taunting her admirer endlessly.
“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” is right on track with what a solid cartoon should be. Granted, it may be more of the same characters and predicaments, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
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