A fine finale, s’no word of a lie…
Picturenose would take the opportunity to dedicate this review to Hélène Noël, who passed away on 16 June, 2008.
It took me completely unawares, did Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha’s Ice Age (2002), not unlike falling in love with Hélène, who first showed me the film.
Not normally being a huge fan of animated features, no matter how well drawn/’CGId’ they are, I was struck by the bone-dry wit of the first instalment, which was perfectly complemented by hilarious characterizations, slap-stick set-pieces and, of course, Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge).
For the uninitiated (shame on you), Scrat is the sabre-toothed squirrel constantly (and hilariously) seeking his acorn in the ice age tundra that forms the film’s setting. Since part the first, Mammoth Manny (Ray Romano) has been the story’s central character – initially joined by sabre-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), the sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006) saw Manny get hitched to Ellie (Queen Latifah) and her two ne’er-do-well possums, Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck).
All appeared rosy at the end of part two, but the latest film opens with the unconventional ‘herd’ in a state of flux – Manny and Ellie are expecting a baby, Diego, who’s fed up with being treated like a house-cat and fears he is losing his ‘edge’ declares his intent to hit the road, and Sid is getting envious of the mammoths’ new-found domestic bliss, and wants a family of his own. By chance, he stumbles upon three dangerously large-looking eggs in an underground ice cavern, and claims them for his own. They hatch, and three very cute dinosaurs enter the world – trouble is, Mummy’s looking for them, and she is not happy. Sid, having already ‘bonded’ with his ‘children’ is reluctant to relinquish them, even to a roaring ‘terrible lizard’, so when the rightful parent reclaims her own, he is dragged along for the ride, to a mysterious underground world, where the dinos still rule. And, of course, it falls to Manny and Co to rescue their errant friend – along with a one-eyed weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg), who seems to be a few bones short of a full fossil…
Now, before those part-time paeleontologists who want to pick holes in a cartoon’s interior logic take the podium, let it be quickly noted that this reviewer is perfectly aware that dinosaurs and mammals were separated by millions upon millions of years. Listen, guys, it’s only a story, OK, and the ‘undiscovered underworld’ contrivance by which the species meet works perfectly well. With any luck, this will be the final instalment (it’s in 3D for cinema release) – not because it isn’t any good, simply because it’s difficult to see what else could be incorporated into a future sequel.
Co-director Mike Thurmeier has teamed up with Saldanha for Dawn…, and, from a visual perspective, it’s fair to say that two heads have proved better than one, with the animation of landscapes and close-up action clearly the best of the franchise. The screenplay, too, is more than up to snuff, even if there’s a sense that there are far more nods to grown-ups this time around, with a slight touch of smut on display. A pity, because innocence was always Ice Age‘s strongest suit, but that’s not to say that the gags aren’t satisfying, for they certainly are.
Mr Ubiquity himself, Simon Pegg, here gets a good chance to show off his vocal talents as Buck, who comes off as something of a cross between Johnny Depp’s Cap’n Jack Sparrow and a young Peter O’Toole, with his blend of whimsy and wit, and there’s even a chance of romance for Scrat – he encounters the beautiful Scratte (Karen Disher) and it’s (sort of) love at first sight. Trouble is, she likes her nuts, too…
In short, you won’t have much more fun than this over summer, whether accompanied by your own little monsters or not. And the 3D visuals will have you jumping from your seats, that’s a promise.