Manny and Ellie are about to have their first child, and Sid is feeling left out. So he's all ready for motherhood himself when he finds three abandoned dinosaur eggs.
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I kind of think I've been writing too many reviews that begin "I wasn't really disappointed with this film, because I had low expectations, and it was funny in some parts and offensive in others." Maybe it was good I went straight from Ice Age into Year One, where the laughs were far fewer, the expectations far lower, and the offensiveness a lot worse.
I have been trying to look at films made for children as if I was a kid myself (and there's those who would argue that's not far from the truth) and as if I was a parent. Was there entertainment and rewatch value? Who are the characters I would want my kids to admire, and emulate? What is the lesson?
The title, I admit, scared me quite a bit. Was this going to be another anti-scientific mishmash of erroneous information playing havoc with the fossil record and perhaps only pleasing to proponents of Intelligent Design?
I mean, I would want my kids to know that the dinosaurs and mammoths were separated by millennia (about 100-200 million years ago for the rise of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago for the mass extinction, and a piddling 4.8 million years ago when mammoths walked the Earth).
The concept of an underground (although not very FAR underground) world where extinct species still thrive has appeal, conjuring Jules Verne. The dinosaurs' lost kingdom is actually the most pleasing part of the film, a step up from the way the "Center of the Earth" was imagined in the Brendan Fraser film.
John Leguizamo is utterly charming as Sid, possibly because he's so unlike the stereotypes of the other characters. He's not one thing or another -- a fast sloth, a guy who wants to be a mommy, a dumb bunny with a smart heart.
It's in the other characters the film really falls down, and no blame to the actors who voice them. Ray Romano is basically playing his character from Everybody Loves Raymond, the dad who's not nearly enough of an adult to clean up his own toys much less anyone else's. Queen Latifah is again shoe-horned into a role much smaller than she is (despite the dimensions of the mammoth she and Romano voice), in a thankless role of the helpless female who's only self-sufficient until the chips are down.
Denis Leary is the macho sabretooth tiger who needs to admit he wants to be part of a family. Even Scrat, the acorn-deprived squirrel, is co-opted into a ridiculous sexist nightmare where the squirrel-woman of his dreams is a manipulative, conniving witch.
Yeah, there are laughs. Most of them come from Sid and his desperate attempts to form his own "herd, and new character Buck (voiced by Simon Pegg, who's clearing having the time of his life), the weasel to end all weasels whose mad obsession with an enormous white dino called Rudy borders on Moby Dick proportions.
When Buck is leading the mammoths et al down into the depths of the earth after Sid, the action is involving and you forget the vague earlier attempts to lay a meaningful alongside the plot. It can't support one, unless maybe "it's more important to be a friend than a good husband and father," or "girls have babies, boys save the day."
For my taste, write the damn script, tell a great story, and if there's truth in the characters and what they do, the moral will be there. Here, the lesson is tacked on, and not very effectively. I'd rather just be entertained than preached to by a choir singing out of tune.
You may enjoy the film. There are a few jokes directed primarily at adults (like tributes to The 40 Year Old Virgin and The Flintstones) and a couple I hope you DON'T have to explain to the children.
Your kids may like the film. The 3D is well done, and there are some absolutely glorious trippy fantasy sequences as Buck reimagines reality in his own twisted, Indiana Jones times ten kind of way.
But have a good chat with them afterward, and let them know that it takes an animal to fall into the worst of those stereotypes. And keep them far, far away from Year One.