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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (PG) **

Scrat once again finds himself in harm's way in a scene from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.Photo: Blue Sky Studios/Fox
Scrat once again finds himself in harm's way in a scene from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.Photo: Blue Sky Studios/Fox

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

The 3D version of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs offers the most eye-popping, reach-out-and-touch-them visual effects of any 3D movie I’ve seen. Every shot in this meticulously rendered, computer-animated adventure offers some bit of entrancing eye candy, be it the photo-realistic fur of a woolly mammoth or a careening ride atop a speeding pterodactyl.

The movie is also being shown in flat 2D, but unlike other recent three-dimensional toons such as Pixar’s Up, which worked just as well without the special goggles, this third installment in the surprisingly popular Ice Age franchise begs to be seen in 3D. Otherwise, there will be nothing to break the tedium and utter lack of wit of the story, which is pitched at a disappointingly low-brow level.

There is a desultory feel to the script, written by Michael Berg, Peter Ackerman and Mike Reiss, that follows the mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), his pregnant mate Ellie (Queen Latifah), the saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and the rest of the Ice Age gang as they discover a lush and tropical world lurking beneath their ice-coated turf — a world replete with supposedly-extinct dinosaurs.

Director Carlos Saldanha and co-director Michael Thurmeier favor Indiana Jones-antics over character-based narrative: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which goes long stretches without any substantial dialogue, is heavy on visual humor and action, such as an encounter between the sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) and a mama T. Rex looking for the dino-babies Sid is raising as his own; or a showdown between the intrepid weasel Butch (Simon Pegg, a newcomer to the franchise) and the albino dinosaur who once tried to eat him.

There is no faulting the big set pieces, which are shot and edited skillfully. But without involving characters to go along with them, those sequences make for awfully empty movie calories. As with the previous two films, the dialogue in the movie remains dispiritingly trite (“After we save Sid, I’m gonna kill him!”), and the occasional attempts to give the grown-ups a laugh fall flat (“I knew that guy when he was a caterpillar — you know, before he came out!”)

Occasionally a gag works, like the T. Rex babies unwittingly eating their playmates at the playground, but most of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is pedestrian kiddie fare. At least the 3D helps counter the film’s prevailing dullness. Not only do the big glasses you wear make the visuals pop, but they also allow you to catch a few z’s during the film without anyone noticing.

Voices: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Bill Hader.

Director: Carlos Saldanha.

Co-director: Michael Thurmeier.

Screenwriters: Michael Berg, Peter Ackerman, Mike Reiss.

Producers: Lori Forte, John C. Donkin.

A 20th Century Fox release. Running time: 93 minutes. Mock dino violence.