It may seem odd to speak of a made-to-be-blockbuster as unpretentious, but the aspirations of “Jurassic Park III” are remarkably — almost endearingly — modest. It does not waste time with chaos theory mumbo-jumbo or dumb “dinosaurs come to America” plot twists like the second episode, “The Lost World.” It just gets right down to business in 90 quick minutes of little people being chased by great big scary things, with just enough plot and character to provide breathing space and a reason to care who survives. It is not art, but it is fun
Instead of Steven Spielberg, director of record-breaking parts one and two, “Jurassic Park III” is directed by Joe Johnston, who showed a sure hand with little people being chased by great big scary things in “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.” We can never be astonished by the CGI technology again the way we were by the first one, and this chapter does not waste much time on grand themes of hubris in playing God with DNA.
There are few surprises. Two good things to have when fighting smart dinosaurs are opposable thumbs and a cell phone. When a man’s ex-wife says that he never takes chances, you know what’s coming, and you will probably be able to guess as we meet each character which ones will survive to the end of the movie. But the script it has clever moments, including some sly digs at “The Lost World.” There is a delicious variation on “Peter Pan’s” crocodile that once swallowed a clock, so Captain Hook can always hear ticking when he is approaching. And there is a nice “Blair Witch” moment when some characters find a video camera dropped by another character and replay the footage to see what happened to him.
Sam Neill, as the first episode’s paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant returns, now assisted by Billy (Alessandro Nivola). They are tricked onto the island by the Kirbys (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni). They are searching for their son, who fell onto the island when he was parasailing.
The dinosaurs are bigger and better than ever. This time, they swim, they fly, and they fight each other. They appear to play a sort of kick-the-can with the downed plane’s cabin. They also work together to trap the humans, so it is a war of brains, not just brawn.
Parents should know that, like the others, this movie is nonstop action and violence. There are jump-out-at-you surprises and some gross-out moments. Characters are in extreme peril and several are killed, but the movie is careful not to get rid of anyone we really care about. Some children will nevertheless find it very upsetting, especially because one of the characters is a child. But the child is brave, smart, and resilient, which some kids will find very satisfying. I also want to caution parents that this movie features what I call the “Parent Trap problem,” divorced parents who reunite and live happily ever after at the end of the movie. Families who are dealing with divorce may find this a scarier prospect than the dinosaurs.
Families who see this movie should talk about Dr. Grant’s comment that “Some of the worst things imaginable are done with the best intentions.” He also talks about the difference between astronomers and astronauts. Is he right in saying that the difference is between imagining and seeing?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the first two episodes (the first vastly better than the second, in my opinion). If they would like to see some friendlier dinosaurs, they might like to try “Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend” or “The Land Before Time.”