Come the evolution: bouncing buoyantly onto the 3-D bandwagon, Ice Age 3 looks slicker than permafrost.
Fox’s multi-dimensional do-over gives a well-judged shot in the arm for the cosy, kid-friendly franchise, and makes a neat fit (unlike Bolt’s bolted-on heroics) for a series whose forte has always been cleverly calibrated Chuck Jones-style chase sequences.
So Scrat the squirrel’s never-ending acorn hunt gets a jaw-flooring new lease of life from the vertiginous cliff-hanging, chasm-plunging 3D sequences, particularly as he’s also grappling with sexy female rival, Scratte.
Plot-wise, however, it’s a slow starter, as Manny the Mammoth’s (voiced by Ray Romano) upcoming parenthood (shades of Shrek The Third) prompts gormless sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) to adopt three dinosaur eggs from an ice cavern.
Slapstick and schmaltz follow until an enraged Mama Dinosaur sweeps Sid and her cuddly carnivorous brood back to a tropical dinoworld hidden deep under the surface.
Cue, inevitably, a rescue mission – albeit one given a wacky, welcome, high-energy edge by Simon Pegg’s batshit-crazy weasel adventure Buck, who’s locked in Captain Ahab-style feuding with a humungous T-Rex.
Director Carlos Saldanha puts the 3-D visual depth charges to good use too. Keeping the adrenalin soaring, barfing Venus fly-trap and giant dinosaur jaws snapping out over the audience will have the tinies shrieking with delight.
Then there’s the swooping pterodactyl chase over a lava river that threatens to put your eye out.
Granted, in between the thrills, there’s the usual Ice Age mix of anthropomorphic mush, Romano’s patented lugubriousness and some wholesome life-lessons, though this time mercifully leavened with mordant quips (“I used a sharpened clam-shell to turn a T-Rex into a T-Rachel,” boasts Buck).
Tragically, jabbering possums Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) survive the Palaeolithic peril, but hey, there’s always next time…
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3D heats up a cooling franchise nicely, alternating the familiar friends-forever ‘aw’ factor and chucklesome comedy chases with some ace in-your-face visuals. Meanwhile, Simon Pegg’s crackling voicework as barmy Buck gives the Mesolithic mayhem a timely touch of class.