Jurassic Park III

Expect nothing, and you get... perhaps a pleasant surprise. 

Okay, refresher course. I have no automatic hatred of CGI--if we're honest with ourselves, we can admit that the original King Kong and the Ray Harryhausen monsters we all loved weren't one-hundred-percent "realistic" either--they were a form of effect that brought monsters to life and we loved them for what they were. I have a problem when CGI is used in an attempt to replace something we already love in another form (Godzilla, for example). The dinos of "Jurassic Park" were born in CGI and work just fine for me in that format. The original JP was a blast when I first saw it, and it's still good fun--and I'm one of those few people who liked the second one even more. Yes, I LIKED watching the T-Rex trash San Diego--it was the perfect bridge between Willis O'Brien and Roland Emmerich--an earnest attempt to show what "monster movies" should do. O'Brien knew it--Emmerich blew it--but Spielberg had his heart in the right place the whole time as I saw it.

Okay, now we have a third one. As a youngster, I once imagined (as a joke) an endless stream of PLANET OF THE APES sequels. I came up with titles such as ZIRA'S PERFUME STINKS UP THE PLANET OF THE APES, CORNELIUS GETS BORED OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, and GENERAL URSUS SLIPS ON A BANANA PEEL ON THE PLANET OF THE APES. I never scripted them out entirely, but I'm actually making a point here, and that point is that the story had been told at that time, and that trying to drag it out with further installments was just coasting. And make no mistake, JP III has nothing to add to the story. Nothing. Just a contrivance to drop a few more people into dino-land. Hey, the acting's fine. You've got Sam Neill and William H. Macy, right? But they've got precious little to do, and you'll groan every time the characters break from the action, sit down and talk. Hey, why stop there? Let's just call the script terrible, because it's terrible!

But it's still fun, and it still works for me better than the otherwise-comparable THE MUMMY RETURNS. This one beats THAT one for several reasons: at least Neill doesn't roll his eyes and imply "we've done this already" with his every line of dialogue; despite the presence of a youngster, there's no attempt at "cute;" the munch-and-crunch scenes are allowed to exist; and there are, once again, several exciting setpieces which don't cause you to protest "but that's exactly what they did LAST time"--the birdcage/birdnest sequence being the highpoint.

It's also too short to complain about--and yes, the obviously rushed ending screams of constant compromises and changes. But if you actually go to see a JURASSIC PARK sequel (especially at a matinee price), don't think you won't get exactly what you came to see. It's there, and it's still fun, even if it's completely disposable. If, on the other hand, you were planning to skip it completely, you won't have missed anything crucial. So there you go.

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