Review in a Hurry: Though it's not as obnoxious as the trailers might imply, the latest animated adventures of a motley mammalian menagerie from prehistoric times (Ray Romano and Queen Latifah as mammoths, Denis Leary as a sabertooth, and John Leguizamo as a sloth) are about as exciting as watching snow melt.
The Bigger Picture: The latest rumors have it that a possible fourth installment in the Ice Age saga will begin with our protagonists preserved in a modern-day museum. There could be no more apt metaphor for a franchise that already feels like a dusty relic, despite the new 3-D gimmick.
Aside from the diverse voice cast, the initial appeal of the Ice Age movies was its setting—prehistoric monsters have been seen on screen before, but rarely has cinema focused on the lumbering, hairy beasts of the post-dinosaur, pre-civilization era. Even equipped with modern-day wisecracks, the adventures of unlikely compadres Manny (Romano), Diego (Leary) and Sid (Leguizamo), as well as occasional tag-along Scrat (Chris Wedge) with his acorn obsession, seemed novel enough to hold our attention. Part two introduced a couple of thawed-out aquatic dinosaurs and Latifah as a love interest for Manny, but still stayed within the same visual playground.
This time, Sid discovers a—ahem—lost world of dinosaurs under the ice, and is whisked away by an angry mama T. rex who is significantly displeased that the buck-toothed goofball has tried to raise her babies by himself. In one scene, Sid tries to milk a male yak in order to feed them—an appropriate analogy to the dry well the filmmakers are similarly trying to pan.
A rescue must be launched into the overly familiar reptilian territory, but unfortunately, not only does this new environment fail to measure up to the Jurassic Park movies it's clearly aping, it's less interesting even than the island in the 1933 King Kong...and frankly, the monsters were more realistic in that movie, 70-plus years ago. Heck, Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost was more compelling than this.
Romano and Leary maintain the fundamental appeal they've always evinced, despite the fact that progressive sequels have neutered their characters of any iota of edginess they may once have had. Leguizamo's Sid is still the story's Jar Jar character, and it's hard to believe anyone would risk the health of their pregnant wife, as Manny does here, to save him from anything.
Even Scrat, the usually reliable slapstick relief, finds romance and loses his edge by movie's end. Kids who harbor residual affection for the characters may still enjoy this, but if you care about them, you'll take 'em to something more worthwhile.
As for the 3-D effects? Disappointing. Battle for Terra made better use of the extra dimension, and we don't recommend that flick, either.
The 180—a Second Opinion: For those of you who have long wished for a cover of the Was (Not Was) hit "Walk the Dinosaur" by Queen Latifah—and we know there has to be at least one or two of you—your wish has been granted.
Catch the latest flicks in our Totally New Releases gallery!