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"Ice Age' 3 fails to entertain

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

(PG)

1 1/2 out of 4 stars

Give the makers of this third "Ice Age" credit for one thing - they've made one of the few 2009 films that is relatively safe for family consumption. Save for the attempted milking of a bull, there is no questionable content to be found. There's also little resembling quality entertainment.

This is a franchise that ran out of steam 30 minutes into the first installment, and the new "Ice Age" exists for the purpose of lining the pockets of some not-quite-in-demand actors and selling scads of McDonald's Happy Meals. You can expect the tikes to be bored stiff within minutes.

Opening with a somber, misplaced serene tone echoing family values and impending old age, "DOTD" walks a plank and falls into an ocean of the truly inane and frantically incoherent.

Picking up where the second left off, woolly mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are expecting their first born. The nervous Manny child-proofs the great wide open which in turn turns off the often-winded saber-toothed Diego (Denis Leary) and awakes the parental bug festering in the slovenly sloth Sid (John Leguizamo).

While Diego wisely takes a powder and disappears for a while, Sid attempts to satisfy his motherly (that's right, motherly) urge by stealing three dinosaur eggs. The real mother of the eggs is none too pleased and jettisons Sid underground into a tropical forest inhabited by dinosaurs.

It's a small point, but one that deserves mentioning. Roughly 65 million years elapsed between the extinction of dinosaurs and the start of the Ice Age. It's also unlikely that a perpetually sunlit tropical oasis could ever exist underneath miles of ice. It's something you might want to point out to your child after the movie is over.

With Sid's fate hanging in the balance, the other three leads attempt to save him, along with some help from Buck (Simon Pegg), an eye-patch-wearing weasel pirate. Providing the only whiff of anything remotely interesting, the prickly Buck is involved in his own long-running grudge match with a nameless, mostly unseen dinosaur. Once Buck arrives, the leads fade into the background and become bit players in their own movie.

Speaking of bit players, the main plot is again regularly interrupted with short vignettes featuring the acorn-hunting Scrat. Easily the best part of the previous films, Scrat now shares the screen with the female Scratte, a sensuous sort who also wants the acorn and isn't above using her feminine wiles in order to get it. Their scenes work best when the two remain adversaries.

"DOTD" marks the real first hiccup in the recently revived 3-D craze. While most of the other recent animated movies have benefited greatly from the 3-D experience, it adds next to nothing to this film. Visually flat, there is rarely any noticeable depth of field and watching it in traditional 2-D would likely offer little difference.

Unless your child is dead set on seeing this and you have no other option, you can easily wait for the disc release. This will also give you the option of leaving the room while it's playing. (Fox)