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Jurassic Park III

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Sam Neill, Michael Jeter, Alessandro Nivola, Laura Dern, Trevor Morgan

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
No Rating Supplied

I loved virtually every minute of the first "Jurassic Park," including the parts other people hated. The slow build-up to the arrival on the island - loved it. The awestruck paleontologists gaping at dinosaurs with the Official Steven Spielberg Look of Wonder - loved it. The animated mascot explaining the cloning process - loved it. I admit the scene where the little boy gets zapped off the top of an ultra high-voltage electric fence and recovers almost instantly was a bit much, and the ending was flat, but the magic and majesty of the production more than made up for the flaws.

Like many fans, I was disappointed with "The Lost World: Jurassic Park." The T-Rex assault at cliff's edge was incredible, but the overall dark tone was draining and I hated the Godzilla-Lite finale. Which brings us to "JP3." Memories of the original had me juiced for big dino-fun, while thoughts of the sequel kept my expectations sufficiently low. I was ready.

Joe Johnston takes the directorial rein from Spielberg and "Jurassic Park III" starts off great, with the welcome return of Sam Neill as grouchy Dr. Alan Grant (Laura Dern even pops up briefly as retired paleobotanist Ellie Sattler). Decked out in an Indiana Jones hat, Neill sets the tone for what looks to be a smart, solid story, giving an assured performance. But once the cast lands on Isla Sorna, the mysterious second island that appeared out of nowhere in "The Lost World," the action ratchets up while the intelligence goes down. The bulk of the 92 minutes consists of people running from a wide variety of dinosaurs until all of the sudden. everything wraps up quickly and neatly in a cop-out ending.

I still had fun, though. To put it in thrill ride terminology, "Jurassic Park" felt like an entire tour of the world's best amusement park condensed into two hours, "The Lost World" felt like a trip on a big, creaky wooden roller coaster and "JP3" feels like a spin on a smooth steel coaster without inversions. At no point does any scene in the film approach the tension of the T-Rex or raptor attacks from the other movies, but the production moves fast enough to provide some breezy pleasure.

Here's the set-up. In the eight years since the original debacle in Jurassic Park, funding for dinosaur research has grown scarce, forcing men like Dr. Grant to plead for money before unsympathetic ears. Enter husband and wife adventurers Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda (Tea Leoni) Kirby, offering a blank check if Grant will serve as tour guide for an aerial pass over Isla Sorna. Grudgingly, he accepts, bringing his protégé Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola) along to see the big lizards.

But wait, it's all bullshit! The Kirbys are actually a middle class divorced couple searching for their 14-year-old son Eric (Trevor Morgan), who disappeared on the island while vacationing with Amanda's boyfriend. The distraught parents keelhaul Grant believing that his knowledge of the dinosaur habitat will allow him to navigate the land and rescue the boy, forgetting that Grant wasn't in the sequel and thus never visited Isla Sorna.

That oversight is merely the first dopey trickle in what becomes a torrential downpour of stupidity. Freshly stranded in predator-central, Amanda immediately starts calling her son's name over a megaphone. When a T-Rex faces the group and Grant firmly states, "Don't move a muscle," everyone else in the expedition runs like hell. Billy, a trainee of Dr. Grant, steals some eggs from the fiercely protective raptors. Incidentally, you'll be happy to know that, while the human IQs plummet, the raptors just keep getting smarter, now displaying the ability to verbally communicate with each other. Maybe they should have written the script.

Luckily, the dim-witted Homo sapiens have other gifts. For example, Billy can take a damaged parachute and turn it into a fully functioning parasail, all while being chased by blood thirsty animals. And all the strandees have some sort of internal radar enabling them to find lost colleagues on the vast isle as if they were two or three aisles away at the local Wal-Mart.

A word on the visuals. The special effects here are the weakest in the series. Things look good for the most part, but too often the computer graphics are obvious and the animatronic critters look like puppets. And I won't even start on the chintzy matte paintings or the lame blue-screen work during the early parasailing shots.

Yet I still had fun. Despite the idiotic people, the absurd level of coincidence, the spotty special effects and the lazy ending, I still liked "Jurassic Park III." Maybe I was just in the mood for silly, fast paced summer fun. Or maybe my IQ is dropping too.

Copyright © 2001 Edward Johnson-Ott

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