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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Blu-ray)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Blu-ray)
Fox // PG // October 27, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted November 2, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
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Highly Recommended
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I know they're not exactly geared towards adults, but I've enjoyed the Ice Age films quite a bit. The scripted dialogue wasn't mind-blowing and the plot didn't tread any new ground, but so what? I'm certainly not above enjoying a film that's meant for a younger audience. All I require is the characters to be enjoyable and the fun to be in high gear throughout, and I'm a happy guy. However, when I heard a third Ice Age film was in the making I wasn't exactly sure how to process that information. Sure, the kids would fall in love with the latest adventure starring their favorite migratory herd, but I was skeptical that it would have ultimately ended up being more of the same. The writers apparently weren't ready to let this particular Ice film be reduced to a pile of slush though, because Ice Age - Dawn of the Dinosaurs avoids most of the pitfalls that would have made me want to 'migrate' this release to my local Blu-ray retailer to fetch some store credit.

Manny and Ellie are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their baby, and the societal boundary inept Sid is probably even more excited about it than they are. Diego however finds the cushy family dynamic to be hampering his predatory skills. Not only is Diego feeling down and out because he's out of shape and his food is able to outrun him, he also feels that the arrival of the baby will inevitably cause the 'herd' to disband. Sadly, Diego decides it's time to leave. Sid eventually begins to feel some jealousy towards the new baby as well. Manny and Ellie have each other, and soon they'll have the pitter patter of a little one to bring them closer than ever before, so when Sid stumbles upon three large eggs, he once again exercises his lack of comprehension for 'boundaries' and decides to take them so he too can enjoy the pleasures of parenthood. Unfortunately the trio of hatched kiddies turn out to be dinosaurs, and this places everyone nearby in imminent danger when their mother comes looking for them. Refusing to give up his parental duties to the children he so ignorantly stole, Sid ends up being taken hostage by the razor toothed mother. Diego reunites with Manny and Ellie to save their pal Sid, and the dino's trail leads them to a beautiful world that's been hidden underground since the beginning of the ice age. It's full of beautiful scenery and exotic plant life, but this world is more of a utopia for dinosaurs than anything else, and Sid's pals are going to have to go through them if they hope to bring him out alive.



The most obvious issue with this film is that it's painfully unoriginal, because what we essentially have here is an Ice Age flick blended with the fantastical likes of Journey to the Center of the Earth. I suppose I can forgive the writers for copying such a well known concept, because how else were they going to keep the franchise from going stale? The stage in which the story was set needed to change into something new and exciting, but when said stage is set outdoors in the middle of an ice age, I'd imagine your options are pretty limited. Fortunately the risk they took for the sake of changing the scenery paid off in full. The drastically different climate, in combination with the most dangerous monsters to have ever walked the earth, brought an exhilarating flare of excitement and adventure to the mix that the first two films just weren't able to achieve.

The most refreshing addition to Dawn of the Dinosaurs however, was quite literally a new weasel of a character by the name of Buck. High strung, eccentric, and a seasoned swashbuckler, Buck is able to guide our friends through all the dangers in the jungle with style. One part Gordon Ramsay, three parts Jack Sparrow, Buck is undeniably the most entertaining character in the film. Thankfully, Buck wasn't just thrown into the mix lazily like the lame opossum duo Crash and Eddie. Buck is actually impressively fleshed out with an epically adventurous background, and although I don't usually condone spinoff flicks, I wouldn't mind seeing Buck's origins in a feature length film. If you're partial to Scrat's acorn chasing interludes however, you won't find any disappointment there either. Hell hath no fury like a woman's acorn, as a lusty beauty manipulates Scrat time and time again so she can obtain the one thing he's fought so hard to hang on to throughout the ice age. The gags are just as comically clever as they ever were, continuing the tradition of sketches that are bound to have the adult audience reminiscing over Looney Tunes, while instilling a new level of appreciation for this kind of cartoon trickery in the up and coming generation.




Typically when a franchise continues to crank out the sequels, you would expect the quality to have rapidly declined. Ice Age - Dawn of the Dinosaurs proves to be an exception to the rule however, as the people behind the scenes have provided us with the best offering in the series to date. It's an action packed adventure that has enough fun, humor, and heart for the entire family. The only concern I'm left with after watching this film, is what the future is going to hold for the series when a fourth film inevitably gets released. I could be mistaken, but I'm really not sure where else the Ice Age gang can go from here without pushing their luck. That's a discussion for another time I suppose, but if you've been unsure if this movie is going to be worth your time on 'family movie night' then the answer is 'yes', especially if you enjoyed the first couple of outings.

Video


Can we say reference quality? Ice Age - Dawn of the Dinosaurs has a very impressive 1080p AVC encode on this release (1.85:1). We all know how nice animation looks in high-def, but this film has an incredible amount of detail that went into every frame of every scene, and it's all reproduced flawlessly with vibrancy and depth. Contrast is immaculate, colors leap off the screen, and there's nothing in the way of digital anomalies for me to complain about. There's no edge enhancement, digital noise reduction is obviously a non issue due to the digital source, and there's no noise to speak of from compression. With Ice Age coming out of the snow and into a prehistoric jungle that's loaded with danger around every bend, expect to be thoroughly stunned by the picture quality from beginning to end.


Audio


This 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track took me by surprise. I remembered this film sounding impressive enough in theaters, but you never quite know how that might translate in your home listening environment. Thankfully, this release faithfully reproduces the mix I heard in theaters with gusto. Dialogue is always clean and easy to understand no matter what crazy action sequence is happening on screen, and the surrounds are loud and proud during any sequence that utilizes them (which is quite a few). Not only is the directional sound field better than 'just average' whenever the action picks up, the LFE turned out to be an impressively bombastic experience as well. My lone complaint is that I wish animated flicks such as this one had a bit more to offer when it comes to environmental sound effects during quieter scenes, but overall the audio presentation on this release is fantastic.


Extras


Filmmakers' Commentary - Director Carlos Saldanha, Co-Director Mike Thurmeier, Producers John Donkin/Lori Forte, Art Director Michael Knapp, Character Designer Peter DeSève, Supervising Animator Galen Tan Chu - For a film that's this much fun, it's hard to believe that so many contributing members of the team behind the scenes could provide such a dull commentary track. Sure, there's plenty of information here regarding every aspect of the film's production, but I think even some of the most seasoned commentary listeners out there might have a hard time with its dry presentation.

Ice Age Storybook Maker - Now here's an interesting feature. Your children will have the opportunity to make their very own Ice Age - Dawn of the Dinosaurs storybook by taking screenshots from a selection of specific scenes, and then writing their story as they see fit on whatever page layout they desire. There are three difficulty settings that are grouped according to age, but I really can't imagine a kid is going to be able to pull this off without a little help from their parents. It's a pretty big design flaw, but I think the fact that this pushes parents to actually sit down and do this activity with their children is a plus. It's refreshing to see an activity based supplement that isn't a game, because let's face it, the games we typically see packaged with children's films are yawn inducing at best.

Evolution Expedition - This is a pretty informational look at the real animals that are featured throughout the franchise. George Page from the Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits gives various bits of info while intermittently being mixed with entertaining clips from the film. This may seem kind of hokey to the adults, but it ensures your kids will stay hooked throughout the entire 18 minute runtime, ultimately making this a fun and educational experience they'll thoroughly enjoy.

Buck: From Easel to Weasel/Falling for Scratte - These short featurettes focus on the development of the new characters that are introduced in the film.

Unearthing the Lost World - This takes a look behind the scenes at how the new 'lost world' featured in the film was brought to life. It's not a particularly interesting piece to watch, but at only 9 minutes in length, you're better off trying to learn the process in this supplemental piece than by listening to the less than impressive commentary track.

Scrat Shorts/Scrat Featurettes - There are four pieces here altogether, three of which being actual shorts that feature the crazy squirrel we all know and love, whereas the oddball out is a 'how to draw' piece.

Fox Movie Channel Featurettes - The five mini featurettes contained within provide 28 minutes worth of behind the scenes material that's pretty standard and never really impresses. There are two Making a Scene pieces that flesh out how a scene is brought from conception to the final product we see in the film, and if you've ever seen a featurette like this for an animated film, you're not going to see anything new here. The final three pieces are short interviews with John Lequizamo, Ray Romano, and Queen Latifah, and they share with us the fun they had providing their vocal talents to bring the characters of the Ice Age films to life. I'm really disappointed that nobody thought to get Simon Pegg in front of the camera to talk about bringing Buck, unquestionably the most entertaining character in this film, to life. There's plenty of information here that's going to please the kids, but there's nothing deep enough for an adult to dig their teeth into.

Unfinished Deleted Scenes - Two deleted scenes are presented in their original storyboard format. The film itself is pretty fast paced, so it's not hard to see why these scenes would have been unworthy additions to the final product.

There are some other minor featurettes here worth mentioning, such as the Walk the Dinosaur Music Video, as well as a Live Lookup feature that lets you access actor filmographies from imdb.com.

It's nice to see that Fox went the Disney route and included a DVD copy of the film. We know how kids can be; they'll want to watch this movie over and over again, so you know whatever disc they'll have access to will take a pretty hefty beating. Might as well be a DVD instead of the reference quality Blu-ray disc you just shelled some money out for, right? A third disc includes a digital copy of the film, which I guess is a little overkill, but it's nice to see that all the bases have been covered.


Overall




Ice Age - Dawn of the Dinosaurs met a lot of mixed criticism upon its initial release, but I really can't understand why. Sure, the Ice Age franchise might not share the same character depth or carefully woven story design that make the Disney/Pixar films so interesting, but what this film lacks in depth and originality it makes up for in adventurous fun the entire family can enjoy. I guess at the end of the day you're either in to these types of films, or you're not. Personally, I feel this is the best offering of the franchise to date. It was able to change things up a little by moving our favorite migratory herd into a different environment with all new challenges, and it introduced a new character that's just as interesting as the primary cast itself, if not more so. I would advise Fox to stop while they're ahead so the series can go out with a bang, but that's not the discussion to have here and now. The bottom line is that this flick is fun from beginning to end, the video presented is reference quality, the audio is more impressive than I expected for an animated feature film, and both DVD and digital copies have been included to suit whatever your 'on the go' needs might be. My only complaint is that the supplemental features are a little too basic for an adult, but I found the Storybook Maker to be a nice surprise that I'm sure many-a-family will have fun tinkering around with. This release is highly recommended to anyone who's a fan of the likes of Ice Age and Madagascar, but if you typically loathe these family endeavors, this film probably isn't going to change your mind.

***The screenshots in this review were taken from the included DVD and are not indicative of the reference high-def presentation on the Blu-ray disc.
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