Jurassic Park III

This is the third time around for those wacky dinosaurs at Jurassic Park, although it is the first time without a Michael Crichton novel and director Steven Spielberg. Although Jurassic Park III is better than Jurassic Park 2, it is still leagues away from approaching the first film. This time around, director Joe Johnston (Jumanji, October Sky), a veteran visual effects guy helms the movie, and turns it into an extended monster chase. Gone is the sense of awe and majesty surrounding the dinosaurs, and gone is the sense of dread on the effects of tampering with nature. If it's any consolation, Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern, well, barely) are back from the original, and gone are Jeff Goldblum and Sir Richard Attenborough.

It's eight years later, and Grant (The Dish, Bicentennial Man) is in need of funding for his research. People are still interested in Jurassic Park, but not willing to pay him. He is content to dig up fossils, vowing never to go back. But everybody has a price, and when Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy, Panic, State and Main; Tea Leoni, The Family Man, Deep Impact) come calling with a blank check, monetary pressures force Grant to accept their offer. They want him as a tourguide as they fly low over Isla Sorno, the island used in The Lost World. They have a hidden agenda, which is to look for their son Eric (Trevor Morgan, The Patriot, A Rumor of Angels), who was lost parasailing over the island in the film's quick introduction. The group lands on the island, much to the consternation of Grant and his assistant Billy (Alessandro Nivola, Love's Labour's Lost, Timecode). Dinosaurs quickly devour extraneous cast as if they were red-shirted Star Trek extras.

Like monster movies, Jurassic Park III takes a number of dumb people and big monsters. Grant and company are racing from the interior of the island to the beach, where they hope they are safer. Neill's character is a shade of his former self. In fact, there is little characterization in the script by Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. The last two are the same people who wrote Election and Citizen Ruth, and their influence is easy to see. There is a streak of black humor running through the movie, entirely more so than its predecessors. The downside is that each character embodies one trait and uses it to his/her advantage. Neill is the wizened sage, Nivola the brave, brash young man, Morgan is the spunky kid, and Leoni is the hysterical woman. All of the many action sequences are thrilling, but curiously devoid of any tension or emotion. The downtimes in between are nothing but placeholders between one attack and the next.

Like in the other two movies, the dinosaurs steal the show. The T-rex and velociraptors are back, along with vicious Pterandons and a massive Spinosaurus. It is another effective melding of computer animation and extremely life-like animatronic dinosaurs again designed by Stan Winston. They are menacing, and upstage the real actors in terms of charisma and personality. Johnston goes a little too far in his subplot about velociraptor intelligence. Apparently, they have the ability to communicate with each other intelligently. Thus, running away from them in Isla Sorno is more than first imagined. Instead of making the raptors look more dangerous, they actually look comical at times. Jurassic Park III won't do anything to expand the series, but does leave a nice hole for another sequel, one that is hopefully better.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence.

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