JURASSIC PARK 3 (2001) 

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Sam Neill
William H. Macy
Tea Leoni
Alessandro Nivola
Trevor Morgan
Michael Jeter
John Diehl
Bruce A. Young
Laura Dern

Joe Johnston




Time: 92 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Horror/Science Fiction

I was pretty sure when I walked into the theater, that I wasn't going to love this movie. However, I was on summer vacation and this is just the kind of effects-laden, mindless garbage that epitomizes the season. God forbid, one have to think after a day of fun and ruin the relaxation vibe. No problem here. It's better than THE LOST WORLD, mainly because it sticks to a simple story without racing over the line of believability at mach speed. The fact that the plot is thinner than a strand of hair does give one pause. However, I was intrigued to see what kind of script would lure Sam Neill back and William M. Macy in. Apparently one with many dollar signs attached to it. I can't understand why two such fine actors would bother with such obvious tripe, but what do I know about acting? Maybe it takes great skill to run away from monsters with a look of terror on your face. Maybe they wanted a vacation from their more challenging roles. If so they found the perfect parts here.

Certainly it's extremely easy to pick apart a film like this, so I'm going to start by expounding it's positive features. 1) Neill and Macy: They don't exactly elevate the film to being enjoyable, but they have a certain "je ne sais quoi" that makes them eminently more watchable than Vince Vaughn and Jeff Goldblum. That being said Tea Leoni, should stick to comedy because she's annoying when she plays earnest. She can only dream of being as good an actress as Julianne Moore, but then again Moore made two of the worst movies of this year (HANNIBAL and EVOLUTION), so maybe picking projects isn't as easy as one thinks. 2) The movie is short: thankfully you don't have to sit through several useless denouements and a lot of forced sentimentality between the parents and their rescued son. Of course, that's the only real human interaction in the film, so it's kind of a catch-22. 3) The Dinosuars: they are the main reason people continue to buy tickets, and for the most part, they look better than ever. The fact that they throw in every one we've ever seen just because they can, is a bit useless and overdone. However, without those scenes, this movie would be even shorter.

"On this island there is no such thing as safe."

The story brings Dr. Alan Grant (Neill) to Isla Sorna – the secret, experimental island, as opposed to the theme park one – somewhat against his will. He thinks he's just flying overhead, giving his companions, Paul and Amanda Kirby (Macy and Leoni), a close-up explanation of the dinosaurs on the island in exchange for a monetary donation from them to help his latest work on the communication between velociraptors. Needless to say, the Kirby's aren't really adventure seekers, but a middle-class, divorced couple who need his help to rescue their son Eric (Morgan), who's accidently been marooned on the island. Grant is none to pleased to actually be face-to-face with the dinos again, especially with a group of total idiots that it will take a miracle to get off the island alive. It doesn't take much guessing who the survivors will be. Anyone not extremely famous or part of the family group that will be reuniting at the end, is fair game, i.e food, for the various and sundry killing machines.

The story takes us from one end of the island to the other in its' attempt to showcase exotic locations and attack sequences. The groups main foe this time out is the Spinosaurous – faster, bigger and meaner than T-Rex – as well as some mean-spirited, flying dinos whose behavior is straight out of THE BIRDS. The pacing is pretty much as follows: a dinosaur attacks, someone dies, the rest escape, various cast members work out emotional issues, a dinosaur attacks, someone dies in a different way, etc., etc., etc. Until the end of course, when Alan Grant saves the day with his vast knowledge of these strange beasts and the survivors are rescued, alive and a family once again. There's a subplot with Grant's student Billy (Nivola) that tries to give the film additional depth, but really isn't surprising or interesting. It attempts to harken back to the tone of JURASSIC PARK, where they deal with greed and the manipulation science, but it just isn't given enough weight to be worthwhile. Besides which, Billy isn't a bad guy, so his role as the film's human villain doesn't pan out. He, of course, redeems himself later in the film, but it's so by the numbers it's pretty hard to congratulate him for his efforts.

One of the more unbelievable aspects of this film, and there are many, is the fact that men with guns don't last 5 minutes on the island, yet a 12-year-old boy with no wilderness or dinosaur training lasts 8 weeks. We find out later in the film that he's read Dr. Grant's book about his up-close and personal experiences on Jurassic Park, but that's still not enough to make me swallow that load. How they are eventually rescued by Grant's ex-partner Ellie (Dern) is another piece of business that may be more appropriate than the stampede through San Diego, but is no less surreal. (Her role is a complete waste.) It has something to do with a satellite phone, that is used somewhat cleverly throughout the film, and I just couldn't believe that was the end. I'm all for keeping it short and sweet, but this movie just fell off the end of the Earth. The final battle with the Spinosuarus just left me feeling bored and the raptor sequence, though it paid off it's earlier plant, didn't make me squirm with pleasure as I hoped. Though they clearly tried to create a good film, it's just a bunch of action sequences strung together with very little suspense.

However, what JURASSIC PARK 3 is truly lacking is the heart and wonder of the first film, where it was OK for us to love the dinosaurs...even though they were killing people. Here they've become just another blood-fueled stalker, mechanically piling up a body count. There's also no sense of humor, relying on slapstick and poop jokes to try to crack a smile. Macy and Jeter attempt to inject some levity into the proceedings, but they don't have any jokes to stand on. All in all, this is a mediocre attempt to make your heart race with delight that never quite gets out of the starting gate. A must-see ONLY for those desperately in love with dinosaurs. All others take the characters advice...and run.

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