The third in the "Ice Age" series, "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" sees Carlos Saldhana (co-director of the prior films) joined by "Horton Hears a Who" co-director Mike Thurmeier. Still, Chris Wedge (co-director of the original film) once again returns to voice the most beloved character of the series, the little squirrel-rat named Scrat. The third film opens with Scrat once again wrapped up in the eternal quest to get his acorn, this time managing to climb to a mountain peak, only to find a fem-Scrat in its place. While Scrat finds himself falling in love, things change rather quickly when he finds she's taken his nut. The final sequence, which involves Scrat - is quite possibly the funniest scene in the series.
Meanwhile, things have changed with the core trio from the prior films. Manny (Ray Romano) has decided to start a family with Ellie (Queen Latifah), which results in Diego (Dennis Leary) deciding that maybe it's time to head his own way. Sid (John Leguizamo) believes that it's a good decision for him to start his own herd, and a group of dinosaur eggs that have been seemingly left in a cave are - at least in his view - a good group of future candidates. Not surprisingly, it's not long before the parent shows up.
After Sid is taken, Ellie and Manny are reunited with Diego in an attempt to save their friend. Joined by Buck the Weasel (Simon Pegg) - who is hunting for a great white dinosaur - the group pushes deeper into a world hidden beneath their own. The second movie was heavy on the slapstick and largely went over the same ground. Thankfully, the third movie gets closer to the first movie, which offered a mostly very appealing mixture of heart, drama, action and comedy. There are certainly a few messages offered, but thankfully, as with the prior films in the series, the picture delivers them in a manner that isn't heavy-handed.
The voice talent continues to work well together, as well - Romano is a good match for Leary's dry humor, which is a good match for Leguizamo's hyperactive one-liners. Added to the group is a very funny little supporting voice effort from Pegg ("Shawn of the Dead"). Animation quality continues to improve over the prior films in the series, although the visual improvement is both due to technical factors, as well as the new jungle environment, which is certainly richer and more interesting than the ice fields of the prior films.
"Dawn of the Dinosaurs" is largely made up of familiar plot elements, but it's a charming effort that succeeds thanks to a better balance of tones, solid performances from the voice cast and a welcome change of scene. This is an enjoyable film for that will entertain kids and adults alike.
A standard DVD edition and a digital copy edition are also included in this set.
VIDEO: "Ice Age 3" is presented in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC) by Fox. The result is a pure reference quality presentation from the studio - this is certainly going to be a demo presentation for many home theater owners. While the prior films also looked gorgeous on Blu-Ray, this film manages to look a couple of steps better. Sharpness and detail are astonishing, as every little bit of fur (Scrat has 2 million hairs) on the characters is presented with remarkable clarity. The picture shows stellar depth, and has a smooth-as-butter appearance, with no edge enhancement, noise or other concerns. While the prior films haven't been big on color (with some exceptions), this film does offer bold, rich colors during the jungle sequences, which look pure, bold and well-saturated. Overall, this is an A+ presentation.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 7.1. As with the prior films, the picture certainly delivers in terms of providing an entertaining audio experience. Surrounds are put to aggressive use throughout the picture, delivering discrete sound effects and all manner of ambience. Audio quality is a delight, as sound effects sounded well-recorded and crisp, while dialogue and score sounded natural and clean. Bass was also quite powerful, at times.
EXTRAS: Co-directors Carlos Saldhana and Mike Thurmeier are joined by other members of the Blue Sky Animation staff for an audio commentary. The track is quite enjoyable, as the group provides a fun and informative look at the struggles of trying to piece together a massive CGI animated picture. We hear about working with the cast, original story concepts, technical issues and much more.
Also offered are a series of featurettes and shorts focused on the beloved Scrat, including: "Scrat: From Head to Toe" (how to draw Scrat), "Scrat: Breaking Story", "Scrat: News Report", "Falling for Scratte", "Scrat: No Time For Nuts" (short film) and "Gone Nutty: Scrat's Missing Adventure" (short).
We also get a series of featurettes that cover various aspects of the production: "Evolution: Expedition", "Buck: From Easel to Weasel", "Unearthing the Lost World", "In Character" featurettes with Romano, Leguizamo and Latifah; "Making a Scene" featurette, and "Making a Scene" featurette (for "Ice Age: The Meltdown"). Finally, we get the "Walk the Dinosaur" music video, a set of unfinished deleted scenes and the interactive "Ice Age: Storybook Maker". While these featurettes as a whole provide a fine overview of the production, but they are often promotional in nature.
A standard DVD edition and a digital copy edition are also included in this 3-disc set.
Final Thoughts: Although I had mixed feelings about the prior film ("Ice Age: The Meltdown"), "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" is a terrific return for the series, with a better balance of humor, drama and action, as well as solid performances from the voice cast. The Blu-Ray offers stunning audio/video quality, as well as quite a few extras. Recommended.
The Film B+