Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jurassic Park III


Joseph was most apologetic over the shoddy accommodations in New Orleans - he swears that a local promoter was to blame. He had been assured that the Cajun Crawfish Club was an exclusive little bistro. He's vowed that the next stop, scheduled for later this week in Plano, Texas, will be a distinct improvement. To make up for it, he sent a private helicopter to pick me up and to take me and all thirty seven pieces of my Louis Vuitton luggage to the Dallas area so I would not have to endure long hours on the road. The set pieces and back up dancers, however, are going Greyhound. There are certain perks to being a magnificent star. 

I received a telegram from my publicist, Madame Rose, today. She has been in contact with Marrakech records. They are interested in bringing my brilliant vocal stylings to a new generation of listeners. There's even talk of my challenging Britney Spears for the title of Pop princess de jour. They propose a new album entitled Endless Suburb which will celebrate mall culture and teen angst through such classic songs as Standing on the Casual Corner, The Little Young Lady from Abercrombie and Somewhere Over the Wal-Mart. Lead sheets and music are being faxed to my Dallas hotel - something called 'The Book Depository'. 

The helicopter stopped in Gavelston to refuel so I took a walk along the seashore and stopped into the local cineplex for a relaxing break before the next leg of my journey. As reptiles have been a theme of late, I chose Jurassic Park III as my bill of fare. This second sequel to the dinosaurs running amok film of some years back was produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Productions but the reins, this time, have been turned over to his protege, Joe Johnston (Jumanji, October Sky). Johnston is a reasonable genre film maker and he turned out a quick and efficient thriller without a single original idea in it. 

This time around, the creators decided to forgo bringing back Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcom (a fact for which I am grateful - one should never try to make comic relief into hero...) and returned instead to Sam Neill's Dr. Alan Grant from the first film. Neill is a competent actor but the character was always more of a type than a person - I'm assuming Neill agreed to it as he needed a paycheck. Dr. Grant is still digging up dinosaur bones in the desert, refusing to study the living specimens as he regards those as an aberration, rather than a reality; his peaceful life is disturbed when a wealthy couple (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) come to him and offer him a small fortune to go with them to Isla Sorna, the site B from the second film, as tour guide. They neglect to tell him that it's really a rescue mission for their adolescent son who disappeared parasailing over the island several weeks earlier. Soon Grant, his assistant Billy (Alessandro Nivola) and a bunch of mercenaries (led by Michael Jeter) are flying off to Costa Rica. Needless to say, things go wrong right off the bat and our heroes are trapped on the island with only their wits to help them defeat raptors, spinosaurs, pteranodons and other nasty beasts with big teeth. 

I shan't give away all the plot details but the script (Peter Buchman - rewritten by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, the duo behind the scathing Election and Citizen Ruth) is perfectly predictable. Ten minutes into the exposition and it's clear who will become dino snacks and who will survive. There's no moment in the opening exposition that won't come back in the action sequences of the second half in some way. It's very much a paint by numbers screenplay which is too bad. I would have expected more from Payne and Taylor. Their trademark snarky sense of humor is there in some of the lines but there's absolutely no character development, no social comment, and little in the way of plot other than dinosaurs surprise humans - humans run away (and occasionally get eaten). 

The talented cast, which includes Laura Dern in a brief cameo as Dr. Ellie Satler, her character from the first film, sleepwalks its way through the script as if they had all been given ten milligrams of valium in the butt when they came on set. They go through the motions and scream when attacked but it's hard to care much for these animatronic figures. The whole film, in many ways, reminded me of Disney's Jungle Cruise - we don't worry too much about the poor guys chased up the tree by the rhino there either. The performances of the humans are perfunctory at best. 

This leaves us with the dinosaurs. Special effects technology has increased by leaps and bounds in the last decade so we have more dinosaurs able to do more things. In some ways, they're much more interesting than the humans and have more personality. They scare and chase their human co-stars with great verve and zeal. Unfortunately, most of the action scenes are poorly edited and you don't get a real good sense of what's going on. The cuts are much too quick. 

The film is predictable, but moderately suspenseful - we don't know when the necessary scenes are going to play out. It's entertaining and slickly made, and worth a look at matinee prices if you've nothing better to do. It's not, however, a great work of cinematic art and breaks no new ground. 

Hostile seminar audience. Lucky backpack. Dino-Soar parasailing. Dino bird call. Gratuitous Compys. Dino do-do. Satellite telephone as plot device. Egg napping. Gratuitous miles ex machina ending. Barney joke. Water tanker truck hide-out.

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