I don't think anyone at Blue Sky Studios knew how big "Ice Age" would become after it came out. While the first film was a pretty big success at the box office, the second film was even bigger. The film once again ended up becoming the highest-grossing animated movie of that year and showed the series had the power to stay. When it comes to the previous two films, I had enjoyed the first "Ice Age" but was disappointed in "Ice Age: The Meltdown". While the latter certainly had its moments and was far from awful, I overall found it slightly disappointing and nowhere near as good as the first film due to having many problems that held it back. That being said, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" really was a surprise for me. The first "Ice Age" is a film that has a certain charm that no sequel could quite recapture, but this sequel almost does it. This film was a huge improvement on "The Meltdown" and is also my favorite sequel of the series. I found quite a bit of fun in it.
We open sometime after the second film where we see that our herd of characters including Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo), Diego (Denis Leary), Ellie (Queen Latifah), and Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck) are preparing for the arrival of Manny and Ellie's first child. Manny wants to make sure everything is perfect for Ellie and their soon to be born child. The others, however, seemed to be focused on other problems. While Diego feels he might be losing his predatory instincts and is considering leaving his friends, Sid wants to start a family of his own despite no sloths being attracted to him. One day though, he unwittingly steals three eggs from a cave that end up being T-rex eggs and naturally, the mother eventually finds him and the babies and carries them all underground. Wanting to save their friend, the others follow the T-rex into the cave to find a whole new world that's been underground where dinosaurs have flourished. Knowing the danger their heading into, they come across a deranged one eye weasel named Buck (Simon Pegg) who acts as their guide across the dangerous unknown land. From their out group of heroes sets of in the underground world to find Sid before another dangerous and massive dinosaur nicknamed Rudy finds him first.
It was clear while watching this film that Blue Sky took the criticisms of "The Meltdown" to heart. They fixed a lot of the problems that film had as well as a few flaws the first film had as well to create a fun and enjoyable film. The story for me was what worked about the movie the most. One problem that the first film and especially "The Meltdown" had was that there was a lot of filler in the films that sort of dragged it down. This film ditches the filler though and sticks right to the story that is once again simple and surprisingly works despite how silly it may seem with dinosaurs living below the ice age. While its continuity with the first film may seem a bit odd considering there were humans in that film, it didn't bother me too much. I found it mostly fun. The climax, in particular, was a lot of fun and easily the best out of all the movies. Even the Scrat subplot was the best of the series as it saw him fighting his acorn with a female squirrel named Scratte. As far as the animation goes, I was amazed. This is one of Blue Sky's best-looking movies to date and the world of the dinosaurs were a sight to behold. It puts the world of Pandora in "Avatar" to shame. I loved the environment and the colors of this world. It looked breathtaking and was a sight to behold. This was easily the most stunning of the "Ice Age" films and I just loved watching it. Even the dinosaurs themselves looked amazing with how well they were detailed and rendered. It was simply gorgeous. As far as the characters go, they work pretty well once again. The characters I was most surprised by in this film were Crash and Eddie because they were given a huge upgrade from the previous film. Where in the last film they came off as annoying and irrelevant, here they are useful and sometimes funny. Granted they do have one or two annoying jokes in there, but at least Blue Sky finally put them to good use. While Manny, Sid, Diego, and Ellie continue to have their same fun charm as in the last film, they were all overshadowed dramatically by the new addition of Buck. His energetic nature and fun personality easily made him a scene-stealer and was just a lot of fun to watch. I think it's because of Simon Pegg delivering one funny performance. He gave a lot of personality to this character and I got to give him respect for that. As far as problems with this film go, there are a few. I do feel Manny does come off as a little overprotective in this film and that did bother me a little bit. Also, the film does have a slow start but once we get down to the world of the dinosaurs it does pick up speed. Though the thing that did bother me the most is that the film didn't have an emotional scene like the previous two. Where the first film showed us Manny's past in the cave, and the second had Ellie remembering her old memories and realizing she's a mammoth near some trees, here this film doesn't have any emotional moments. It was slightly disappointing, but the films still had some good stuff to make up for it.
Overall, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" is easily the best of the sequels and the most fun out of them with a story that's fun and energetic, animation that's gorgeous and very well detailed, and some fun characters to boost as well. This is the best of the "Ice Age" sequels and is easily the one that I would recommend seeing the most. The first film may be the better film at the end of the day, but the sequel isn't that far behind. It's not amazing, but it's still fun. I recommend it for those curious enough to see where the story goes after the second.