This is not a common complaint among film critics, but “Jurassic Park III” may not be long enough.
At 94 minutes, this droll and unnecessary sequel is certainly lean, and to some extent, not a lot of exposition is needed. We already know from 1993’s “Jurassic Park” and 1997’s “The Lost World” that scientists cloned dinosaurs, and that the beasts now inhabit two faraway islands. We know some people will wind up on one of the islands, they’ll say, “What was that?!” a lot, some of them will be eaten by dinosaurs, and the most important and/or good-looking ones will survive. So let’s skip the introduction and get right to the chompin’!
The problem is all the wonderful ideas that are introduced and then left by the wayside in favor of more dino-biting. A group has come to Isla Sorna (the “Lost World” island) to rescue a man (Mark Harelik) and a young boy (Trevor Morgan) who were stranded on it while parasailing. The boy has lived among the dinosaurs for eight weeks with almost no shelter, but his now-instinctive knowledge of them is only hinted at. There is such great potential in this boy showing up even the paleontologists with his experiential expertise, but we see little of that.
The fierce velociraptors are shown to be far more intelligent than once believed. Smart killers are creepy indeed, but the raptors are made secondary to the personality-free spinosaur, a new breed of dino even more powerful than the tyrannosaurus rex. (Good ol’ T-rex, such a hit in the first two movies, is given an unceremonious dethroning as king of the primeval jungle by a successor who inspires no more fear than he did.)
In an effort to make things move quickly, director Joe Johnston and screenwriters Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor have given us plenty of dinosaur action but very little to hold it together. The dinosaurs move and act as realistically as ever, and that’s impressive. But the fact is, we’ve SEEN great-looking dinosaurs before, in movies with more imagination than this one.
Accompanying Dr. Grant (Sam Neill, back after not appearing in the last film) to the island are the young boy’s parents (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni), an eager assistant (Alessandro Nivola) and some expendable people with “Eat Me First” stamped on their foreheads. William H. Macy brings his world-weary delivery to an otherwise standard role, and Sam Neill’s Dr. Grant has acquired a delicious bitterness over his near-death experiences in the first film.
This film is sillier than the others, which lessens the awesome majesty of the huge creatures, but which makes a second sequel a little more palatable. Perhaps at this point they’ve given up on scaring us with the dinosaurs — although they can still do that, too, occasionally — and have decided to make us laugh, instead. Whatever their goal is, “Jurassic Park III” is a little jagged and a little harsh. But it’s also rather entertaining, even if you do expect to see the raptors wearing hockey masks and wielding chainsaws.
B- (; )