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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 Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

Whereas Steven Spielberg's original JURASSIC PARK filled viewers with awe over the grandeur of nature, his sequel, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, achieves 134 minutes of tedium. After a long and boring introduction, the movie slips into its rhythm of attack, lull, attack. The mean time between dinosaur attacks gets shorter and shorter until we have one every other minute. Those subscribing to the more-is-always-better philosophy may enjoy Spielberg's overkill, but most viewers will probably find the film more tiring than scary.

The two films look different as well. The original had gorgeous cinematography by Dean Cundey. The sequel, as filmed by Janusz Kaminski, is strikingly ugly. Every scene looks flat and dirty as if the camera lens had gotten too much jungle grime on it.

The strikingly bad camerawork is a shame since the best part of the film, and the only reason to see it, are the impressive special effects. Special effects technology has advanced significantly in last four years. The result is even more realistic images than last time. This can best be seen when the humans interact close-up with the dinosaurs in the same frame.

The story this time has John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) back, but converted from capitalist to naturalist. He summons his favorite chaos theoretician, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), to tell him that there is another island full of dinosaurs, and John wants Ian to go to the island to observe the creatures with 3 others, one being Ian's girlfriend, world famous paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore). Moore brings nothing to her underwritten role, and Goldblum plays a type of character he has done many times before, but he seems to have lost interest. He was stronger and funnier in last year's blockbuster, INDEPENDENCE DAY.

Joining the two are gadget expert Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff), who almost has the word "expendable" written on his forehead, and photographer Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), who joined Greenpeace because that's where the babes are. Eighty percent female you see.

Ian doesn't want to go, but John assures him, "Don't worry, I'm not making the same mistakes again." Giving him a yeah-right look, Malcolm retorts, "No, you're making all new ones."

Since it seems that Ian's girlfriend has already gone alone to the island, Ian reluctantly agrees to go anyway. That she would go totally alone to a island full of ferocious dinosaurs is the first of many ridiculous parts of David Koepp's script, based on the book by Michael Crichton. I'll discuss more of these problems later.

Ian now has an African-American daughter, which I thought reeked of tokenism given the otherwise all-white leads, named Kelly Curtis (Vanessa Lee Chester). As soon as you see her, you know she will become a stowaway and will be in danger many times.

Soon after they get to the island, another group arrives. Pete Postlethwaite (IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER), in the only memorable performance of the movie, plays big game hunter Roland Tembo. Postlethwaite steals every scene he is in. Playing it dead serious and always angry, he makes the show come alive when he is present. "Saddle up," he barks out to the scores of people around him. "Let's get this moveable feast underway."

Roland is accompanied by a greedy businessman named Peter Ludlow, played blandly and unconvincingly by Arliss Howard. Ludlow wants to build a Jurassic Park in San Diego near Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. Profits should be incredible near the Southern California population masses.

As realistic as the dinosaurs are, the attacks come so often that I never found them scary. The single truly frightening scene has Sarah laying on a piece of plate glass hung over a canyon. You can hear it rapidly breaking, and if she moves, it will shatter, plummeting her a thousand feet below to certain death. The choreography of this, and only this, scene is worthy of a Hitchcock.

Now, about the film's absurd aspects. Let me give just a few. Would you take an injured T-Rex baby back to your trailer knowing full well that his parents will smell his scent and hear his cries? If you were camping out among carnivorous dinosaurs, would you stay at the edge of the camp listening to loud music on your headphones, oblivious to the sounds of attacking dinos? Would you wander off from the others just to go to the bathroom? Would you sleep with a light on in your tent if you knew that hungry T-Rexs are roaming nearby?

And in my favorite unbelievable part, how does a T-Rex get out of the locked cargo hold of a ship at sea, eat everyone on deck and then lock himself back in?

At some point in this story you will crack. The sum total of its stupidity will overwhelm you, and you will burst out in laughter. For me the moment came when a kid looks outside his bedroom window to see a ferocious T-Rex who has eaten his dog and still has the dog house hanging from a chain with the other end attached to the dog in his mouth. Is the kid scared? Not too much. He gets his flash camera and takes a picture. Soon his family will be dinner.

"Hang on," Ian says early in the film. "This is going to be bad." How prophetic.

THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK runs an incredibly long 2:14. It is rated PG-13 for dinosaur violence with people eaten alive and body parts strewn everywhere. The movie is fine for teenagers, but kids under 13 will need strong stomachs. As a rule of thumb, I'd say if they can handle JURASSIC PARK with no problems, they would be okay for the sequel, but if the original troubles them at all, pass on its sequel. I cannot recommend this mess and give it just barely ** for the great special effects and for Postlethwaite's performance.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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