Jurassic Park III

Is it just me, or does the thought of “Jurassic Park III” sound like a bad idea? How many times does someone have to put their hand in the fire before they realize they’re going to get burned?

jurassic park 3After two previous nasty episodes, you would think that instead of quarantining the dinosaur islands, authorities would blow them to Kingdom Come. Why take a chance? Because if you blow them up there wouldn’t be a reason for “Jurassic Park III” to exist. No dinosaurs, no sequel. Oh, it’s a cruel, cruel world.

As a Saturday afternoon popcorn movie, “Jurassic Park III” is half-baked. The script is so banal and simple-minded that it serves as a check list for what not to do. The acting is more artificial than the digital dinosaurs, and direction is almost nonexistent. Despite advances in visual and special effects that literally bring the dinosaurs back to life, “Jurassic Park III” looks and feels like a cheap rip-off.

Nothing makes sense, especially the plot, which feels like it was pieced together as filming progressed. The filmmakers waste no time tossing us into the middle of the action, but once they get us there, they seem as lost as the actors. “Jurassic Park III” is all action, 90 minutes of running and screaming. There are no surprises in the script by Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor.

Forget character development or motivation, just fill the screen with bigger and better dinosaurs. Indeed, “Jurassic Park III” lines every frame with enough dinosaurs to please any overactive five- year-old. Big dinosaurs, small dinosaurs, flying dinosaurs and friendly dinosaurs. You would think that the dinosaurs would be worth their weight in gold, but after fifteen minutes they become as leaden as the dialogue and direction.

Sam Neill returns as paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, who swore after his first encounter (with what he calls “genetically designed theme park monsters”) that he would never return to “Jurassic Park” again. Of course it’s only a matter of minutes before a adventurous rich couple (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) convince Grant to be their guide for a fly-over of Isla Sorna, the original breeding ground for the dinosaurs.

Macy and Leoni turn out to be a divorced couple using Grant to help find their son, who was lost parasailing near the island. The fly-over turns into an immediate disaster when the plane crashes, stranding Grant and a handful of victims on the island.

Following a formula is one thing, duplicating it without any attempt at originality is another. The writers don’t just use the “Jurassic Park” handbook as a guideline, they Xerox every plot point. Shameful. Here’s a short “Jurassic Park” primer:


The kids in the “Jurassic Park” films are always smarter than the adults. That’s true of Trevor Morgan’s Eric Kirby, the lost kid in a lost world. He survives eight weeks on his own because he read both of Dr. Grant’s books. I hardly know a teenager who reads, much less college textbooks.


In all three “Jurassic Park” films, dinosaurs bring together couples who were previously on the skids. Sam Neill and Laura Dern in the original, Jeff Goldblum and Julianne Moore in “Lost World,” and Macy and Leoni here. Who needs counselors? Just toss a warring couple into the middle of a Raptor nest and see how much they really love each other.


They must be. How else do you explain their bad behavior in the middle of a crisis? In “Jurassic Park III,” the characters are forced to say and do stupid things in order to advance the plot. If you knew the island was jam-packed with dinosaurs, would you run blindly through the jungle? Or scream at the top of your lungs? Or even show up in the first place?


There’s always time in “Jurassic Park” for a time-out, those little pockets of quiet where a character gets to wax eloquent about something meaningful. They’re supposed to help the characters and audience catch their breath, but seem unnecessary considering the circumstances.


We know from experience that anyone listed more than fifth in the credits will not make it to the final frame. They’re just along for the ride, and to save the leads from becoming a dinosaur Happy Meal. In “Jurassic Park III,” a group of mercenaries accompany Grant and company on the trip, but barely make it past the first reel. If the filmmakers had guts, they would kill one of the leads.


It was a hit in the first film, so the filmmakers always manage to squeeze out a moment where the characters encounter some form of Dino Poop. Here we get bird droppings that would require the whole New York Sunday Times, and a cell phone hidden inside one of four large piles of poop.


Anyone who attempts to use the dinosaurs for their own personal goals must pay the price, either through financial ruin or with their lives. Proprietor John Hammond in the first two, plus assorted attorneys, big game hunters and scientists. These characters are usually allowed to redeem themselves by performing a heroic act before being dispatched. Grant’s assistant Billy (Alessandro Nivola) steals two Raptor eggs, placing the survivors in even more jeopardy. In order to make up for his selfless act, Billy is required to save Eric from the ferocious flying Pteranodon.

There’s more, but you get the idea. Neill survives this mess intact, looking no worse for the wear. The rest of the actors are overshadowed by the vast assortment of dinosaurs, including a new villain, the Spinosaurus.

Director Joe Johnston has made a snappy looking film, but his logic is all screwed up. He gives us the money shot, a battle between a T-Rex and the Spinosaurus, thirty minutes into the film. Where do you go from there? Then he serves up a finale with great possibilities, but does nothing with it. It’s extremely frustrating to see potential (only the aviary scene is truly scary) wasted.


Bigger dinosaurs don’t make a better film in silly sequel


Sam Neil, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter. Directed by Joe Johnston. Rated PG-13. 93 Minutes.


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