'Ice Age' sequel: Dawn of the same old ideas

"Ice Age 3" opens this week, so if you want to see a good animated movie, check out  . . . "Up."

Or maybe "Monsters Vs. Aliens," if you can still find it.

Anything but "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," packed with ideas as fresh as "Land of the Lost," which we haven't seen for, oh, three weeks now.

Sequel No. 2 is in 3-D (glasses required, check theaters), and begins with Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano) fretting over his pregnant wife (Queen Latifah).

A labored subplot finds the impending birth alienating Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and inspiring Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) to start a family of his own - he borrows three large eggs, and watches them until they hatch.

Hatch they do, into three hungry little dinosaurs, pursued in short order by gigantic, angry T-Rex mom, who wants to take them back to the subterranean world from whence they came.

The story follows Sid as he toddles after his "children" into the land of the lost, and the rest of the gang as they follow Sid, through one perilous jungle adventure after another.

Perilous in theory, pretty dull in practice. And not very funny either, though the filmmakers hire Simon Pegg to voice Buck, who functions as the group's dashing, acrobatic and slightly insane weasel guide to the strange new world (and sop to overseas box office).

Throughout, we get periodic glimpses of Scrat the squirrel - the creature who kicks off every "Ice Age" movie with a vignette featuring his Ahab-like quest of the acorn. It's usually the movie's best feature, and here it's amplified by a love story. Scrat finds he can't choose between the acorn and the foxy flying squirrel who also covets it, a wrinkle that flattens rather than deepens Scrat's world. (One exception is a petroleum bubble sequence, which is first-rate.)

There was something appealingly pure about Scrat's covetous, single-minded pursuit of the acorn, sullied now by the addition of the romantic angle. Or maybe I was just put off by the hacklike device of playing the same Lou Rawls song every time Scrat and his girlfriend are on screen together.

I never thought I'd get tired of watching Scrat, but "Ice Age 3" proved me wrong.


Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Directed by Carlos Saldanha. With Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Chris Wedge, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary. Distributed by 20th Century Fox/Emerging Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 27 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG (for some mild rude humor and peril).