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The Lost World: Jurassic Park

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Vince Vaughn, Arliss Howard, Peter Stormare, Pete Postlethwaite, Richard Schiff, Thomas F. Duffy, Harvey Jason, Vanessa Lee Chester, Richard Attenborough

Review by MrBrown
3 stars out of 4

On paper, Steven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park has the makings of a vast improvement over the entertaining but wildly overrated original film: the most remotely interesting human in the original cast, Jeff Goldblum, is the only major returnee; the blah Laura Dern and Sam Neill are supplanted by the vastly more interesting Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn; a wider menagerie of dinosaurs is featured; there are enhanced dinosaur effects; and all of the necessary exposition is already covered in the first film. Yet despite all of the basic improvements going into the production, the perfectly entertaining finished product still somehow manages to fall short of the original film.

This time around, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) very reluctantly joins girlfriend and paleontologist Sarah Harding (Moore), environmentalist videographer Nick Van Owen (Vaughn) on an expedition to Site B, a second dinosaur-populated island, where the creatures were bred for the ill-fated Jurassic Park. Add a child stowaway for the trip--in this case, Malcolm's daughter (Vanessa Lee Chester)--and you have your perfunctory framework for prehistoric mayhem, thrills, and chills.

The promise appears to be fulfilled in the first major dinosaur suspense sequence, involving two very angry T-rexes and our heroes trapped in a double trailer dangling off of a cliff. This scene, which features a tense moment with Sarah on top of a slowly cracking horizontal window pane and some choice dino feeding action, comes quite early in the film, and it sets the stage up for greater thrills. But they don't come. The problem? Miscalculations and missed opportunities. Other than this early scene and a T-rex attack on a camp (complete with the return of the image of quivering water), the major set pieces don't quite go for the kill. Especially dismaying is the showcase raptor sequence. With the raptors chasing our heroes in, on, and around an abandoned, run-down building, it is an effective, suspenseful scene... until the end comes. Jurassic Park had its share of corny moments (the bonding-with-kids-while-feeding-the-brontosaurus scene comes to mind), but it never crossed the line to outright camp and cheese, which is what Spielberg and scripter David Koepp let The Lost World do in its resolution of the raptor scene. I won't give it away, but it left me and the audience with which I saw the film completely aghast at its idiotic awfulness. Certainly, a film about dinosaurs in the present day requires a suspension of disbelief, but to even the most openminded viewer, the end of the raptor scene will ring completely false. The film's third act centers on an unexpected twist involving the T-rex, but the possibilities this surprise idea brings aren't satisfactorily realized. The T-rex is roars a lot, breaks stuff--but, shockingly enough, he doesn't really help himself to the veritable buffet of people running from him. What's the fun of a T-rex who's not hungry?

On a similar note, the promise of the casting does not pay off, mostly due to Koepp's lazy screenplay. Once again, Goldblum is the only remotely interesting human, getting all of the best lines. Moore does not fall into the same trap that befell the original's overwrought Dern, who attacked her role as if she wanted an Oscar nomination. However, once the deadlier dinosaurs arrive, her brilliant scientist is reduced to being a token screamer, and there's precious little left for the talented Moore to work with. Vaughn is a very lively actor (see Swingers), but you would not get that impression from his "role" here, which is a mere one-dimensional placeholder. Pete Postlethwaite's character, a determined hunter after a T-rex, is potentially interesting, but he goes nowhere. Chester, despite having a key part in the horrendous raptor resolution, is a big step up from the first film's kids, Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards (who both, unfortunately, resurface in a cameo, albeit mercifully brief), but anyone would have been an improvement over that annoying duo.

After all my griping, my giving The Lost World: Jurassic Park a passing grade may seem a bit hypocritical, but up to this point I have been focusing on what the film isn't rather than what it is: an enjoyable adventure that never bores, even with a two-hour, fourteen-minute running time. It delivers exactly what one would expect from a dinosaur movie--a wide array of very convincing animatronic and computer-generated prehistoric reptiles (even more impressive than in the original) destroying things and people in more than a few reasonably thrilling set pieces. And as such, it fits the bill of summer popcorn entertainment.

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