While the first Jurassic Park was mediocre and the second film god-awful, Jurassic Park III finally gets the formula right. These movies were never meant to be science heavy or overly sentimental; they should've been what #3 is -- an amusement park thrill ride packed wall-to-wall with dinosaurs and more dinosaurs, clocking in at less than 90 minutes with as little dialogue and subplot as possible. Plus, big bonus -- no Jeff Goldblum!
Instead of Goldblum, JP3 brings back Sam Neill as the slightly grizzled Dr. Alan Grant who seems happy to put his terrifying up-close dino experiences behind him. Grant and his new protégé Billy (Alessandro Nivola) are once again looking for funding for their research, and are coaxed into accompanying a new wealthy benefactor -- Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) and his wife Amanda (Téa Leoni) -- on a fly-over of the second Jurassic island, Isla Sorna. But things turn ugly when the Kirbys announce they plan to land on the island to search for their 14-year-old son Eric (Trevor Morgan) who was conveniently lost there while paragliding. When the group ends up crash landing in the jungle, the movie becomes a race to see who will get off the island and who will become lunch. (Sounds like a cool idea for the next Survivor.)
While dialogue has never been these films' strongest suit, JP3 remedies this by having less of it. Regardless, the writers behind this screenplay-of-fewer-words are pretty impressive: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor are the minds behind Citizen Ruth and Election. It comes off as a bit like how a dumb movie turns out when it's penned by smart people (like a Wayne's World) -- lots of action peppered with throw-away goofball lines like, "They weren't making dinosaurs; they were playing God."
As evidenced by dialogue like that, JP3 doesn't take itself too seriously, which is perhaps its saving grace; and it pulls no punches when taking potshots at the other two movies. For example, when Grant finds Eric (or, rather, after Eric rescues Grant), Eric tells the scientist, "I've read both your books. I liked the first one better than the second." Also, the so-called millionaire Kirby turns out to be a plumber. So much for a repeat of John Hammond.
Above all, JP3 packs in more dinosaurs per square inch than any other JP film before it. This time, big, angry reptiles are coming out of the sky and water as well as land, and the filmmakers even introduce a dino to rival the T. Rex, a massive monster called Spinosaur (that's right, dino-fighting). And, of course, the raptors are back, and now they can communicate with each other (don't ask, evolution's a bitch). Most importantly, none of the humans try to fight the dinosaurs themselves, so we won't be seeing any unbelievable scenes of kids knocking out velociraptors with a few gymnastics kicks.
Efficiently crammed with lots of thrills, Jurassic Park III may come off as a little bit like a big-budget B-movie, but you're not likely to have a better time at a blockbuster this summer. It's just loud, smash-and-crash monster movie fun at its finest.
The DVD extras focus on the film's special effects -- surprisingly, very little CGI, very many animatronic legs and jaws.
Continue reading: Jurassic Park III Review
Unfortunately Normal Life is a dud from a story and pacing standpoint, as it attempts to combine Bonnie and Clyde with a sexed-up Skinemax movie, plus a touch of Girl, Interrupted. Judd is an emotional basketcase with a penchant for cutting herself (named, ahem, Pam Anderson), while Luke Perry (sure, you remember him!) is a cop who falls for the poor lass (first spotting her smashing a beer mug in a bar -- great sign!).
Continue reading: Normal Life Review
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