While it's been three years since Ice Age: The Meltdown, that shouldn't hurt the box-office returns for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. (The four-year gap between the first Ice Age and Meltdown didn't make the latter any less of a smash hit.) Released in 3D (as well as conventional 2D), the family-friendly animated film is bound to clean up over the Fourth of July weekend. And that won't be undeserved either.
Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo all return as the voices of Manny, Diego and Sid, a motley group of animals who've become a "herd." Manny the mammoth has settled into domestic bliss with Ellie (Queen Latifah), who's expecting a baby. Manny's so excited he's built a playground. But all isn't well with Diego and Sid. Diego feels he's losing his ferocity and thinks maybe he should move on; Sid's yearning to find a mate and start a family of his own. So when Sid stumbles upon a set of dinosaur eggs, he goes against Manny's wishes, waits for them to hatch and adopts the babies.
Mama dinosaur isn't too happy that some sloth has stolen her babies and eventually tracks them down and whisks them (and Sid) back to her underground home. Manny, Ellie and even Diego all realize they need to help Sid, even if it means endangering their own lives. So they head underground to the land of the dinosaurs where they encounter an adventure-loving weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg), who offers to help them save their friend.
There aren't any surprises here, and the whole dinosaur thing is rather random. But Romano, Leary and Leguizamo have all given their respective characters real personality, and Latifah, who joined the franchise with Meltdown, is terrific as well. The film doesn't get its laughs by making loads of pop-culture references. Instead, it relies on the actors' comic skills and timing.