Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 

Well, I'll be damned. Somebody finally got it right: a family movie that really does contain a variety of things for people of all ages, like a bit of sentiment, a dash of danger, a hint of satire and a big, heaping helping of comedy. It's animated and, in some theaters, it's in 3-D. I saw "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" in 2-D, and while I could guess the third dimension would have added some enjoyment to certain sequences, I didn't feel that I had missed too much.

"Dawn of the Dinosaurs" is the third picture in the "Ice Age" franchise. Ray Romano ("The Grand") voices Manny the Mammoth, married to Ellie (Queen Latifah, "The Secret Life of Bees"), who is expecting their first child. Manny wants everything to be perfect for the baby, which causes him to pay less attention to the pals who have been by his side since the first film, Diego the Sabretooth (Denis Leary, TV's "Rescue Me") and Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo, "Nothing Like the Holidays").

Diego decides to strike off on his own and Sid, wanting to be a parent, too, discovers three eggs and sets out to hatch them.

Sid, being as innocent as an unhatched egg himself, doesn't care when his offspring turn out to be baby T-rexes. Their real mother shows up to claim them and carries Sid off with her three chicks to an underground land where dinosaurs still rule under the earth. Manny, Ellie and Diego, along with Ellie's brothers, two possums "? don't ask "? named Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott, "Role Models" and Josh Peck, "The Wackness") follow Dinomom to rescue their bud.

Underground, they meet Buck (Simon Pegg, "Star Trek"), a weasel who's been on his own way too long. He's dashing, he's an adventurer, he's a dino hunter, and he's two or three stars short of a galaxy. Pegg does a terrific job giving voice to this whack job who's a blend of Capt. Ahab, Capt. Hook, and Capt. Crazyasacaffeinatedsquirrel.

Behind the adventure and laughs, the movie is about what it takes to make a real family, and it's a lot more than just being related by blood. It's about sticking to your friends, even when they don't make a lot of sense. And it's about finding something in life that makes you want to get up every morning. Well, every morning except Sunday.

Directed by Carlos Saldanha, who co-directed the first two and "Robots," and Mike Thurmeier, the film is loaded with the standard-issue pop-culture references, but unlike the ones that bog down the "Shrek" series, these are handled much more subtly. For every obvious bit, like Ellie's cry of "Yabba dabba doo!" there are a handful of wink-wink, nudge-nudges that slink past quietly.

All in all, this is the best "Ice Age" of the trio. The animators at Blue Sky just might soar above Pixar's "Up" this summer. 

"?Doug Bentin

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