As we hit the ice for the third time, mammoths Manny and Ellie are expecting their very own bundle of fur-covered joy. And this highly anticipated arrival has Manny on pins and needles as he tries to baby-proof nature—do you know how many pointy things there are in an ice-covered forest?
While he’s focusing all his energy on those preparations and caring for his oh-so-pregnant mate, buddies Sid the sloth and Diego the saber-toothed tiger are having some troubles of their own. Diego is going through a midlife crisis of sorts and fears he should leave the herd if he doesn’t want to lose his edge. And the rambunctiously goofy Sid is actually yearning for the responsibility of a family of his own.
Instead of finding a pretty little sloth to woo, though, Sid stumbles upon a trio of dinosaur eggs in a hidden cavern and becomes an instant “mommy” when they hatch. But Sid’s maternal bliss is short-lived. The real mother dino discovers that the eggs are missing and stomps her way up from an underground lair to retrieve them. And wouldn’t you know it, when Mommy T. rex snatches up the little ones, Sid gets mixed up in the mouthful, too.
So Manny and his crew have to put everything else aside and look for their pal in a subterranean prehistoric world. But who can help them make their way through this strange and dangerous land of the lost? There’s only one creature up to that task: an eye-patch-wearing, swashbuckling, slightly bonkers weasel named—dum-da-dum—Buck!
Ice Age 3 reinforces the idea that a family is a thing of great value. Manny and Ellie are beside themselves with joy over the baby mammoth who will soon join their herd. Manny loves Ellie dearly and is willing to put everything on the line to protect her. Because of that, when Sid is first taken by the mother T. rex, Manny is hesitant to follow and put his beloved Ellie in danger. But she reminds him that their commitment to their friend is every bit as important as their commitment to each other.
In fact, it’s that feeling of belonging and the desire for family bonds that drive Sid on his dinosaur-raising quest to begin with. When he finds the three eggs—which appear defenseless and vulnerable—he readily accepts the job of protecting and caring for them. And even after the eggs hatch and the massive mama comes to claim her brood, Sid is willing to face her gnashing jaws to protect the young ones.
The rough and tumble T. rex eventually recognizes Sid’s devotion to her children and comes to a reluctant truce with him (which to Sid’s relief includes taking him off her dinner menu). Likewise, when the sloth realizes that the baby dinos belong with their true mom, he sadly lets them go. And Manny tells him, “You were a good parent, Sid.”
Diego is the only one who feels he’s on the outside of all these warm and fuzzy family bonds. He worries that he’s becoming domesticated and thinks he should leave the group to reclaim a sense of adventure. But by the end of Sid’s rescue, and with the birth of the baby mammoth, Diego looks at his family group and says, “Life of adventure? It’s right here.”
In the midst of all his acorn-chasing travails, Scrat the prehistoric squirrel runs into a female flying squirrel named Scratte. He is quickly wowed by her batting eyes and swaying hips. After fighting over the acorn, the two eventually become a couple, tangoing, embracing and kissing in several short segments.
Manny tells his “preggers” mate that “round is foxy.” When trapped together in the gut of a man-eating plant, Diego tells Manny, “I feel tingly.” Manny replies, “Don’t say that when you’re pressed up against me!”
Seeing a giant butterfly, Buck exclaims, “I knew that guy when he was a caterpillar, you know, before he came out.” When being told that someone “had his back,” Buck counters that he’d rather they had his front because, “That’s where all the good stuff is.”
Comic pratfalling and tumbling are the norm. Several large dinosaurs chase and bat our heroes around, but without any real physical damage. Diego and Manny smash and pummel a pack of sharp-clawed raptors who are trying to attack a defenseless Ellie.
During Scrat and Scratte’s struggle for ownership of the acorn, Scrat ends up getting repeatedly clunked and bonked. He’s kicked in the crotch and crunched by a falling tree. His chest fur is ripped off, and he falls to a distant canyon floor in a dust cloud thump (à la Wile E. Coyote).
Next to the put-upon squirrel, Sid takes the most slapstick abuse as he’s picked up and tossed around—thumping into trees and rocks—by dino Mom. In other scenes he’s whacked over the head and even nipped at by his own dino kids. (But when Mom looks like she’s about to gobble Sid up, the youngsters step forward to protect him.)
In one wham-bam segment, Buck and two possum brothers try to steer a flying dinosaur down to rescue Sid who is floating on a crumbling rock in a lava river. As they do so, a group of vicious pterodactyls swoop in like fighter planes to snap at and batter them.
Buck remembers an intense battle with a gigantic dinosaur foe that roars, chomps and swallows him whole. The weasel manages a daring escape by breaking through the creature’s teeth.
Sid scolds his young dinosaur charges for swallowing their animal friends and forces one to spit up two bleary-eyed-but-still-alive victims. There’s a line that references castrating a T. rex.
One use each of “jeesh” and “crap.” Name-calling includes “idiot.”
These aren’t mammoth missteps, but Ice Age 3 does fall on its trunk a few times with light toilet humor gags. Trying to feed his babies, Sid sneaks up to “milk” a water buffalo, only to find that it’s a male. When seeing Ellie’s newborn daughter for the first time, Sid exclaims, “It’s a boy!” Diego points out, “That’s its tail.” While tracking Sid, Buck reports that he’s found a scent that “smells like a buzzard’s butt fell off and got sprayed by a bunch of skunks.” Diego insists, “That’s Sid.”
Today’s animated feature films can take a number of different forms—from sweet to sappy, stirring to obnoxious. And even though they’re generally aimed at family audiences, you can never be sure that inappropriate nonsense won’t be tossed into the mix for the sake of a few more giggles. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has a bit of that flotsam floating in its stream of banter, and some fur gets matted with a touch of sap by the time we reach the conclusion. But as Manny might put it, there’s plenty here to trumpet.
Alongside the franchise’s list of well-knowns, this film crams in the swashbuckling, scene-stealing Buck, a trio of hyperactive T. rex babies, and their mother of all mothers. Amazingly, in spite of this over-packed cast, it somehow keeps us interested in the whole menagerie, makes all of their side stories involving and keeps the adventure rolling along.
Now, this sequel will never be called deep or thought-provoking. Dinosaur chases, lava eruptions and character-driven one-liners are the order of the day. But the rambunctious journey sometimes slows long enough to remind young minds of the importance and rewards of family, selflessness and teamwork.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.