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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is the third installment in the Ice Age franchise. It's likely to appeal to kids (even the preschool set) as much as the first two. That said, it's the first one in 3-D, so some scenes -- especially the ones featuring dinosaurs -- may be a bit more intense. There's lots of cartoonish violence, mostly involving Scrat and his new female friend (they also flirt and kiss, which is the extent of the movie's romance). Language is mild, but there's some scatological humor ("barf" and "poop"), as well as suspense concerning the main characters' ability to get out of harm's way.
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What's the story?
The prehistoric pals from the first two Ice Age movies are back in ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS, and now their inter-species herd is about to grow. Wooly mammoth Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah) is expecting a baby, turning partner Manny (Ray Romano) into an overprotective, nervous father-to-be. Meanwhile, saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) realizes that he's lost his edge when he can't even capture easy prey and decides to leave the overly domesticated herd. And Sid (John Leguizamo), who's worried he won't belong when the baby arrives, takes matters into his own hands and swipes three eggs he finds under the ice. The triplets turn out to be baby T-rexes -- who have an understandably angry mama. The gang must band together to save Sid from the clutches of the underground dinosaur world that thrives just below their own icy surface.
Is it any good?
While the first two Ice Age films were humorous character studies of unlikely prehistoric friends, the "threequel" is less compelling than its predecessors and much more about the action. Audiences already know how the main characters interact, so the focus shifts to the dangerous search for Sid and the obstacles that Manny, Diego, Ellie, and her nitwit twin "brothers" (Josh Peck, Seann William Scott) face. This works fine for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' 3-D scenes, but in the process the movie loses a tiny bit of the franchise's humor and heart.
The only memorable new additions are Buck (British comic actor Simon Pegg), a hermitic warrior weasel who guides the crew to Sid, and the three dinosaur babies, who can't play well with their Ice Age friends (a playground scene hilariously turns into an unlikely feast as the triplets swallow their new playmates). And arguably the best new character doesn't utter a single word: Scrat's love interest, Scratte, a winged female creature who desires that elusive acorn just as much as her beloved. Scrat and that acorn are the perfect animated example of physical comedy, and their scenes alone are worth a trip to the multiplex.
Talk to your kids about ...
Famiies can talk about Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs's central message about having an unconventional herd/family. What defines a family? And should it matter what a person looks like in order to be their friend?
Families can also discuss how the violence compares to that of other movies meant for young kids. Was the 3-D too intense?
Also, how did some of the characters act differently than you expected, like the weasel Buck and the mama dinosaur? And even Ellie, though she's pregnant, is no weakling. How does her character portray females?
- In theaters: July 1, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: October 27, 2009
- Cast: Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Ray Romano
- Director: Carlos Saldanha
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Dinosaurs, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild rude humor and peril
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