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"JURASSIC WORLD"
(2015) (Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Adventure: Park staff and visitors must contend with the escape of a new and dangerous breed of genetically cloned animal on an island designed as a dinosaur theme park.
PLOT:
Two decades after the disaster that closed the dinosaur theme park known as Jurassic Park before it even opened, its successor -- Jurassic World, situated not far away from those ruins on the same island of Isla Nubar -- is a thriving attraction overseen by operations manager Claire Dearing (BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD). Tens of thousands of people visit every day, with two of the latest visitors being Claire's nephews, 16-year-old Zach Mitchell (NICK ROBINSON) and his 11-year brother, Gray (TY SIMPKINS). Since Claire doesn't have time to babysit them -- what with genetic scientist Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. WONG) having cooked up a brand new dinosaur for the park's billionaire owner, Simon Masrani (IRRFAN KHAN), in order to keep visitors excited about coming to the park now that seeing dinosaurs has become somewhat blasť -- she has her assistant watch the boys.

Simon is a bit concerned about the huge enclosure that contains the new Indominus Rex -- assembled from the genes of various dinosaurs and coming in bigger than even a T-Rex -- and thus has Claire consult with Owen Grady (CHRIS PRATT) about its ability to contain the beast. He's been working with Barry (OMAR SY) in efforts to train the usually dangerous Velociraptors like a pack of obedient dogs, something that's caught the attention of Vic Hoskins (VINCENT D'ONOFRIO), the head of security operations for InGen, the company behind the original park.

He wants to militarize dinosaurs, extolling that millions of years of hunting instincts could be used on the battlefield, something Owen thinks is preposterous. But that trainer literally has bigger things to worry about when the Indominus Rex manages to escape. With Claire having her control room operator, Lowery Cruthers (JAKE JOHNSON), help herd the park's visitors into safe areas, Owen realizes trying to escape rather than kill the huge dinosaur will be a fatal mistake. Once he's proved correct, Claire has him help find and rescue her nephews who are somewhere out in the park and in obvious danger.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
Unlike many of my contemporaries, I don't obsessively think about, talk about or watch movies if I don't have to. As most people in other professions have come to realize, it's nice to get away from work, and while some of my fellow critics may say they're watching for entertainment only, if they make a living reviewing films, then they are working to some degree.

Nonetheless, there are times when I might stop and watch parts of and occasionally entire films that I've already seen and likely reviewed. Those are the flicks that are usually high up on my list when people ask what my favorite films are. And that's because part of my litmus test for being on such a list is the ability to watch the same film again and get near and sometimes as much satisfaction as the first time around.

"The Shawshank Redemption" probably tops that list, but I'll usually stop in my tracks (or channel surfing) if I come across any number of Steven Spielberg films. Tops for those are obviously "Jaws" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but "Jurassic Park" isn't far behind.

After all, despite now being 22-years-old, the film still stands up quite well, even if it's special effects are presumably limited and "primitive" compared to what's possible now. But it's moments like the famous T-Rex attack scene where the siblings are stuck in an electric jeep and have a very close encounter with that escaped and apparently quite hungry and/or vengeful dinosaur.

I can still vividly see how that scene plays out in my mind, which also holds true for others in the film. As a comparison, however, as I'm writing this now, it's been 18 years since I saw "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," and four less since I sat through "Jurassic Park III." While my memory might be jogged if shown parts of either film, and I might then recall scenes and the order in which they unfold, I'm currently drawing a blank for any such signature moments.

Thus, neither film comes anywhere close to being on my "favorites" list. All of which made me ponder whether the third sequel, "Jurassic World," now nearly a decade and a half removed from the last time humans and dinos interacted upon the big screen in this franchise, would join its immediate predecessors or somehow align itself with the original film in the "much watch whenever I stumble across it" category.

The flick -- penned by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly -- takes up where the first film left off (pretty much ignoring what happened in the two sequels). It takes place around the same number of years that have come and gone since Spielberg turned Michael Crichton's novel into a figurative and literal monster hit and director-turned actor Richard Attenborough's character finally realized his idea for a dinosaur theme park wasn't that sound after all (something predicted by Jeff Goldblum's memorable mathematician).

Apparently, the forces that be here didn't learn any lessons from that (or chaos theory, that nature doesn't want to be controlled, and that "if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists"). Thus, we're left with pretty much the same sort of plot as we've seen before (including two young siblings who end up in harm's way, even with a close encounter attack inside another sort of park attraction vehicle).

Other than BD Wong returning as the park's genetic "mad" scientist, the rest of the cast is comprised of new players embodying new characters. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are okay as the leads, but the former lovers turned antagonists turned lovers again doesn't nearly match the success and appeal of say, Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood.

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson are also okay, but pale considerably to the young kids playing the siblings in the original film. And Vincent D'Onofrio, while not quite to mustache twirling madness, might as well be wearing a t-shirt that reads "Dinosaur Food -- Come and Get It."

That's pretty much what these sorts of films are about, and if you can turn off your brain and ignore a myriad of plot issues (the most notable being that dinosaurs have become so commonplace in the human mindset that they're now blasť, not to mention the notion of wanting to militarize them), and don't mind seeing dinosaurs snatching, bashing and chomping down on humans and each other, you'll probably enjoy the ride.

While no Spielberg in terms of crafting exquisitely terrific suspense scenes, director Colin Trevorrow delivers some decent and occasionally exciting action moments. The related special effects are good, but somehow they don't seem that much more advanced than what we watched twenty-two years ago. And while the score starts with the terrific and familiar strains of John Williams' original score, it then segues into something completely forgettable.

All of which means that if you simply want to watch a few hundred million dollars thrown up onto the screen to showcase another round of dinosaur mayhem, you'll probably walk away satisfied. Better than the first two sequels but not a match for the original, "Jurassic World" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.




Reviewed June 9, 2015 / Posted June 12, 2015


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