ice age 3

See that picture up there? That’s one of the reasons Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is terrible. That little fucker is some kind of enjoyment-killing tree sloth fucking thing that leads the Ice Age gang through some mystery cave where dinosaurs are still alive, despite all historical evidence to the contrary. You see, science had led us to believe that dinosaurs were eradicated by an ice age. Presumably the same ice age that Ray Romano’s wooly mammoth and Denis Leary’s sabre-toothed tiger have been living in for three fucking movies now.

Anyway, that little prick’s name is Buck, and he’s voiced by Simon Pegg, who most of the time is hilarious. Except when he plays Buck. Buck is some kind of unholy cross between Ralph Brown and Crocodile Dundee. With an eye patch, so you know he’s hardcore. Buck is the worst.

The pre-existing characters aren’t much better. Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a phone-in job of the highest order. Romano, who sounds bored in his natural timbre, is near comatose here. Queen Latifah can’t emote properly. John Leguizamo should have hung it up once he made all that Super Mario bank. And Leary’s seems to always sleepwalk through his more family-friendly projects.

And despite the obvious historical fuck off involved in the introduction of dinosaurs, the real problem with their inclusion is that it squanders everything the Ice Age franchise had going for it. The original Ice Age, which is actually a fine family picture, was captivating not because it had particularly appealing characters or a plot, but because it inhabited a desolate, solid-white universe, in a transitional period in global history. Very little of what appears in Ice Age had been imagined in quite the same way before. It was novel, occasionally funny, and the sequel The Meltdown piggybacked nicely off its success.

For a third installment, shaking up the formula may have been a pretty good idea in principle, but in execution it removes any goodwill one might have had toward the franchise. Especially since all the jokes are stale rehashings of what we’ve heard before. And the use of digital 3D accomplishes only a cosmetic improvement on a visual landscape that’s less inspired (and less fully imagined) than what the producers of Ice Age captured the first time around.

And the stupid squirrel that fights over the acorn with the lady squirrel to the tune of “You’ll Never Find”? I’ve seen that sequence so many times on TV, in trailers, and in the actual film, I never want to listen to Lou Rawls again.

And that’s the real damn shame.

Film: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Director: Carlos Saldanha and Mike Thurmeier (yep, it took two directors to fuck this up just right)
Stars: Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Seann William Scott

Viewing situation: Weekday matinee, small crowd; digital 3D
My grade (out of 10): 1
Rotten Tomatoes average: 44%

Next up: My Sister’s Keeper (part two of a Theater Hopping Double Feature ©!)

Summer Movie Suicide Mission ’09: Seeing them all, all summer long. Follow Summer Movie Suicide Mission on Twitter: @SMSM09. Check out the full list to date here.

star trek

For any director, a reboot of the original 1960s Star Trek storyline would be a tall order. I’ve seen both Trekkies and Trekkies 2, and have attended a Trek convention, so, while I’m more of a casual enthusiast (meaning I’m familiar with the franchise’s mythology, while having actually consumed only a miniscule amount of its output), I can understand the way the obsessives operate. J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek could have easily had backlash written all over it.

Abrams, a director with only one prior feature to his credit (Cloverfield), would seem as a pretty dicey choice to reboot Trek. Until, of course, you consider that Abrams is responsible for Lost, a series whose fanbase is not altogether unlike Trek’s in terms of dedication, and the obsessive nitpicking that comes along with it.

Star Trek has a director with an understanding of his audience, a good sense of fun, and a knack for covering his bases in service of the franchise’s master plot. To borrow Leonard Maltin (or some such milquetoast asshole), Abrams’s Trek is a winner!

For starters, Abrams keeps the essence of the Star Trek spirit, while giving it the kind of high gloss 21st century sheen (complete with superfuturistic lens flares!) that the franchise deserves. He also sets a quick pace, full of bombastic action set pieces that would have been economically unfeasible in any previous Trek incarnation, but provide welcome entertainment that doesn’t detract from a cleverly plotted origin story.

That story diverts enough from the original series’s storyline to create a fresh start, while casually explaining away the differences with a “parallel universe” plotline that, while a bit hackneyed, is understandable, and provides a nice excuse to use Leonard Nimoy as “future Spock.”

The rest of the cast, led by young Spock Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine (whose take on Captain Kirk as a smarmy young military prodigy is revelatory), provide a new spin on these familiar characters, creating new quirks and nuances while remaining faithful to the original cast. Only Karl Urban’s McCoy and Anton Yelchin’s Chekhov verge on parody, but if pop cultural history has taught me nothing else, Star Trek and parody go hand in hand.

Which is one of the main reasons while the new film works as well as it does. For Abrams, making the film was more about balance than anything. He had to manage the expectations of a strong core audience, while playing up the fun and whimsy for the rest of us. While I can’t speak for the core (maybe the Onion was right after all), it looks to me that he pulled off the trick.

Film: Star Trek
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy, Karl Urban, Winona Ryder

Viewing situation: Weekday late evening, small crowd; digital projection
My grade (out of 10): 8
Rotten Tomatoes average: 95%

Next up: Up

>> Trekkies Bash New ‘Star Trek’ Film as Fun, Watchable [Onion News Network via YouTube]

Summer Movie Suicide Mission ’09: Seeing them all, all summer long. Follow Summer Movie Suicide Mission on Twitter: @SMSM09.