Can't make it to Universal Studios theme park this summer? Try the latest in the Jurassic Park franchise, which has been trimmed down to the point that it makes no pretense of being anything other than a thrill ride for kids.
"Jurassic Park 3" would be easy to dismiss. Its characterizations are broader than a brontosauruses backside, the dialogue is sitcom snappy, and the plot and the actions of the characters-- who seem determined to call attention to themselves while in the company of carnivores-- are silly in the extreme.
But hey, it's better than the long and awful Spielberg-helmed first sequel; and you don't have the long draggy, expository opening hour of the original. This movie gets down to business and moves.
Sam Neil reprises his role as Dr. Alan Grant, famed dinosaur researcher and survivor of the disaster at Jurassic Park. He is hired under false pretense by Paul and Amanda Kirby (William Macy and Tia Leoni) who claim to be rich adventure seeking dino-watchers who want merely a guided tour of the forbidden island from the air. Grant reluctantly agrees, but is hijacked along with his hunky young assistant Billy, (Allesandro Nivola) when it turns out the Kirbys are really seeking their son, Eric, who was marooned on the island.
It's no surprise that this party becomes trapped on the island themselves, that there is a happy family reunion, or that there are lots of scenes of screaming people running from beasts with big teeth.
The surprise is that this works at all. The action sequences in "Jurassic Park 3" are very well done-- not just technically in how they look, but in how they are staged and paced-- and the adrenaline they produce just manages to override our brains enough to make this a pleasant diversion.
One of the set pieces that takes place in an aviary of flying, vicious Pteranodons is actually a part of one of the novels that was ignored in earlier movies. And a showdown between T Rex and an even worse tempered Spinosaurus is in the great tradition of Japanese monster movies-- but it looks real. Think of this as the ultimate Ray Harryhausen creature movie with dumber people.
Director Joe Johnson, who directed "Honey I Shrunk the Kids," (which was a better movie about parents rescuing children in danger from flying special effects) and the real American beauty of the year 1999, "October Sky," may be slumming here; but the original "Jurassic Park" was basically just a summer junk movie, too. It just had the Spielberg prestige attached-- and a "WOW!" factor from brand new special effect technology.
However, given the choice, I would much rather sit through the quick and painless hour and a half of "Jurassic Park 3", than suffer through the ponderous, pretentious, and equally silly "A.I."-- though both movies feature arbitrary plot resolutions that made me laugh out loud.
If you go expecting something like "Honey, Something's Trying to Eat the Kids," and aren't looking for anything that would tax the brain of an average 8 year old, "Jurassic Park 3" is acceptable summer entertainment.
And this year, a summer would-be blockbuster that neither stinks, nor takes half the day to watch, is actually an improvement over most releases. Though if you want to see an ill-tempered green monster do his thing, I'd say go see "Shrek" again.