Film Review © 2001 by Trip Reynolds

Science Fiction

Directed by Joe Johnston; Screenplay by Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor;

Starring Sam Neill (as scientist Dr. Alan Grant), William H. Macy (wimpish but manipulative businessman, Paul Kirby), Tea Leoni (as an overly emotional mother with no common sense, Amanda Kirby), Trevor Morgan (as the lost but very capable son of Paul and Amanda Kirby), Laura Dern (as scientist Ellie Sattler), Alessandro Nivola (as the ever-daring--handsome-young-male-research-scientist-adventurer-Billy Brennan), Michael Jeter (as soldier of fortune, pseudo-mercenary, Udesky) and John Diehl (as Cooper).

This third entry in the Jurassic Park film franchise isn't particularly impressive and, notably, film was not based on the original work of author Michael Crichton. I kept waiting for something to happen, something big. Nothing ever did. Where was the big climax? Limited to a brisk 90-minute length, the film moves quickly &endash; which is good &endash; but missing was an arch in story development that included a big pay off. Let's face it, no matter how big and bad and ugly the monsters might be, you can only play hide and seek for so long until - well, filled simply with stupid cat (dinosaur) and mouse (human) chases film becomes boring.

In today's colloquial vernacular, film didn't "play" (pay-off) or so the audience got played (robbed of entertainment). In the "Friday the 13th" film franchise Jason always killed everyone except the one person who decided to "play" instead of being "played." Get it? Jason really made teenagers look stupid, just like dinosaurs (via a weak screenplay) make humans appear in JP III.

This time out, dinosaur expert Dr. Alan Grant (a return appearance by Sam Neill), is duped by a supposedly philanthropic couple, Paul and Amanda Kirby (actors William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) to fly-over Isla Sorna for a sight-seeing tour of the "site B" Costa Rican island populated by dinosaurs. As established in the film's first fifteen minutes, the Kirby's are actually seeking their teenage son who was lost on the island after a paragliding accident. Soon we discover that both the Kirby's and their hired team of professional rescuers are nothing but amateurs and buffoons. The entire island experience is nothing more than hide and seek from the big, bad dinosaurs until the film's brisk ending. Frankly, it's embarrassing and insulting to watch them make such stupid mistakes &endash; like yelling &endash; when, in this make believe universe, the entire world knows these Costa Rica islands are off limits for many reasons including the fact that big and bad dinosaurs actually eat people! Film shows us the stupidity of humans against dinosaurs who probably had advanced communication skills and were smart enough to set traps for their prey.

Despite a weak script, Neill does a solid acting job here as do his supporting cast. Film would have been MUCH better if Jeff Goldblum's ever sarcastic and cynical scientist Ian Malcolm had also made a return appearance. Hopefully, if Jurassic Park IV sees the light of day, Steven Spielberg will re-team both Neill and Goldblum, while also making better use of Laura Dern who was great as Dr. Ellie Sattler in JP I but she had little more than a cameo role in JP III.

Of course, special effects make or break these kinds of films. While scenes featuring the flying dinosaurs and the raptors were state-of-the-art, the bulk of the special effects seemed better in JP I and even better in JP II. Admittedly, this observation is peculiar since Stan Winston, Phil Tippett and Michael Lantieri of George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic were responsible for the special effects for all three films.

Film was executive produced by Steven Spielberg, and directed by Joe Johnston ("October Sky"). Let's not mention the writers, okay! In the future, the producers, director, writer(s) and editor(s) of the next Jurassic Park film would be well served by watching all ten (10)! films in the "Friday the 13th" film franchise. Spielberg and crew should realize it takes more than wielding great technology to establish a cinematic atmosphere of dread and suspense. Before the "Friday the 13th" films became a joke unto themselves they established themselves (along with John Carpenter's "Halloween,") as the standard, the template for an entire genre of films. Therefore, if you're going to make a cat-n-mouse-hide-and-seek "scary movie" (no pun intended), learn to do it right!

Film has a sharp running length of 90 minutes.

Recommendation: See it at a dollar theater, or wait to rent it on video/DVD, or wait and watch it on cable.