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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 Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

In Julien Temple's movie "Pandaemonium" which opened one week before "Jurassic Park III," much is made of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's great poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," whose moral appears near the conclusion stanza, "He prayeth best, who loveth best/All things both great and small." Well, now, Sam Coleridge would probably need to do a lot of praying had he landed on the island of Isla Soma (near Costa Rica) but he'd have a difficult time loving any of the creatures there, most of whom would be out to make a shepherd's pie out of the poet. Coleridge would be confronted not only by the massive Spinosaurus, which could hunt on land and water, but if he kept his nose to the ground while taking care to avoid them, he might still be lifted high into the air by the flying Pteranodons. Though Coleridge lived during the Eighteenth Century, which would be considered ancient history by most teens today, the age of dinosaurs would be just about as ancient to him as it is to us in the twenty-first. Dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago (that's, what, 650,000 centuries ago?) but thanks to modern scientific, technology, they have been recreated by a company called Igen and, like the Frankenstein monster have overwhelmed their creators and taken over the island.

"Jurassic Park III" finds Steven Spielberg in the executive producer's chair this time around with "Jumanji"'s Joe Johnston at the helm, directing a screenplay by Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor based on Michael Crichton's characters. While the story is in no way in the same league as the season other sci-fi pic, Spielberg and Kubrick's "A.I." the special effects, the sound, and the presence of two superlative actors make "JP3" well worth visiting. Filmed on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Molokai and Kauai over a period ten months with much of the action taking place in Universal's studios, "Jurassic Park III" offers an assortment of thrills, though nothing particularly new, with some delightful shtick from William H. Macy in the role of the klutzy would-be financier Paul Kirby. Kirby and his estranged wife Amanda (Tea Leoni) need to visit the island to find their fourteen- year-old son, Eric (Trevor Morgan), who disappeared after being marooned while on a para-sailing expedition with his mother's boy friend. Conning ace paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) with an offer of big bucks for his research, he gets the scientist and his associate, Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola) to fly with him to the island on the pretext that he and his wife are taking an expensive and exciting vacation.

"JP3" brings back Sam Neill and Laura Dern from their 1993 roles in the original and most celebrated "Jurassic Park," a film dealing with a billionaire's amusement park populated with living dinosaurs. The concept is pretty much the same this time, with the island in effect serving as an amusement part, given the detail that the block of jungle was used artificially to create creatures large and small, but the chills are short of hair-raising--perhaps because by now we've become accustomed to the usual interplay of human meets Spinosaurus. We know well ahead of the actors which guys are going to die and which are going to survive (spoiler: the black guy does NOT die first), and we can guess the future of the estranged couple whose hormones are racing during the entire time they bolt from the creatures. (We can also be sure that they'll probably break up again after a few weeks together in the less exciting environs of their small, mid-western town.)

Though William H. Macy, who has turned in spectacular performances as one of David Mamet's favorites in plays like "Oleanna" and TV works like "The Water Engine," is not as quirky as Jeff Goldblum--who performed in the role of a mathematician in the first "JP"--he provides more than enough comic relief while Tea Leoni as his wife provides enough screams to compete with John Williams and Don Davis's intrusive music. As with "Final Fantasy," the story's not the thing: in this case, a dollar to your favorite charity if you can guess which creatures are from Stan Winston's live action dinosaurs (one of which actually weighs 24,000 pounds) and which are from Jim Mitchell's special effects. Oh yes, in the final scene quite a few Pteranodons take flight from the island--and you know what that means.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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