Even the antics of little Scrat fall flat this time. The rodent whose pursuit of an elusive nut was the highlight of the first movies are tired and strained here as the filmmakers have him alternately fighting and wooing a female counterpart also trying to secure that pesky acorn.
With the gang battling reptiles and Buck hurtling about like Douglas Fairbanks, "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" has a faster pulse than the earlier movies.
What you can say about the images presented by director Carlos Saldanha pretty much holds true for new installments in other computer-animated franchises. It's more detailed, textured and vibrant than the earlier "Ice Age" epochs because the technology and possibilities of computer-generation animation keep getting better.
The screenplay credited to four writers, including original "Ice Age" co-writers Michael Berg and Peter Ackerman, tosses off the occasional decent wisecrack that adults will appreciate (Manny's observation that he thought dinosaurs were extinct makes for a good chuckle coming from a mammoth whose species died out eons ago).
But the dialogue is mostly simple jawboning that doesn't provide many laughs. Unlike such wise, witty Pixar Animation tales as "Up" and "WALL-E," this one's strictly a slapstick tale for the young ones, who will ooh and aah over all the adorable beasties, new and old.
"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG for some mild rude humor and peril. Running time: 93 minutes. Two stars out of four.