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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Sam Neill, Tea Leoni, William Macy, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Laura Dern
Why oh why did they have to go and screw it up? The first Jurassic Park was a good movie. It really was. The story was just substantial enough and plausible enough to keep the movie going. The action sequences got your heart pounding that much faster. The special effects were groundbreaking. Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum could actually act. It was even funny. Not bad for an overhyped blockbuster. And who could forget that instantly famous theme music? But Hollywood is never one to leave well enough alone, especially when thereís a potential cash cow in the works. So we were made to endure The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, easily one of the worst movies Iíve ever seen. The good news is that Jurassic Park 3 is actually a small redemption, mostly due to the return of Neill, reprising his role as Dr. Alan Grant. Still, thereís not enough to justify watching this movie.
Thereís more than enough blame to go around, but the bulk of it shouldnít be placed at the feet of any writers, directors, actors, or producers. The real problem lies in the premise itself. As far-fetched as the first movie was, it salvaged enough credibility to keep the monster afloat. However, each successive sequel must necessarily be more ridiculous than the one that preceded it. Are we really to believe that the collective governments, armies and scientists of the world are allowing dinosaurs to run amok on various islands in the Pacific? Are we really to believe that the members of the original Jurassic Park posse will continually and voluntarily get within spitting distance of said islands? Of course not, so the premise that allows this madness to continue will have to get more and more convoluted each time.
This time, Dr. Grant (Neill), whose dig is about to go bankrupt (again), and a young member of his team (Alessandro Nivola) are lured onto the island by a couple (William Macy and Tea Leoni) searching for their lost son. Grant clearly has some issues from his past experiences: dinosaurs talk to him in his dreams. But we wonít deal with that. The movie makes it clear from the beginning that it will have nothing to do with such foolish things like plot or character. The point is to get these people onto the island using whatever ridiculous devices needed, and then let the chase begin. Bafflingly, the movie seems to go out of its way to make things even more ridiculous. First, Grant actually agrees to tackle the island (yeah, right), then the couple is revealed to be nothing but a bunch of schemers who concealed a few key facts from Grant (Iím sure), then they find the boy still alive and doing quite well after eight weeks alone on a raptor-infested island (how convenient).
The chase scenes are still technically amazing, but hampered by a "been there, done that" vibe. I guess you can only see someone get mauled by a raptor a few dozen times before you start to get desensitized. The movie tries to be funny, but itís nowhere near as funny as the schtick that dumb-luck Dennis Nedry (played by Wayne Knight) pulled in the first one. The best bit involves a dinosaur that swallows a cell phone (Iíll leave you to discover the particular joys of that one). And the movie even has the self-conscious gall to use that same theme music. Blah.
Pretty much the best thing going for this movie is Neill. He looks vaguely annoyed throughout, and itís hard to tell if heís annoyed with the dinosaurs or the movie itself or both. Still, his gruffly heroic manner (think Indiana Jones, hat and all) is well played. His speechmaking is even mildly cogent. In fact, the scriptís one saving grace is that it makes a half-hearted attempt to keep the poetic maxims on life and death to a minimum. But hey, who has the time to be profound when thereís a T-Rex on your tail?
The rest of the cast is completely wasted. Leoni has nothing to do except run around, scream, and continually get herself into dangerous situations. Ditto Macy and Nivola. The kid, played by Trevor Morgan, does well with what is allotted to him. Laura Dern revisits the role of Dr. Ellie Sattler in a brief, shining cameo early on the movie. For a minute, we hope her presence is a sign that the franchise remembers the height from which it has fallen. Alas, she wisely stays out of the muck and off the island.
My advice is to save yourself a few bucks and rent the original. If your Jurassic Park experience is incomplete without seeing the whole trilogy, then go if you must. Just sit in the back of the theater. If you sit too close to the screen, you might get eaten by a dino or, even worse, fall into one of the gaping holes in the plot. This is one cash cow that has been milked dry.
By Megan Lenz (7/20/01)