Movies: Jurassic World

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson
Directed By: Colin Trevorrow
Written By: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolloy (screenplay); Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (story); predicated on work by Michael Crichton
Universal, 2015
PG-13; 124 minutes
5 stars (out of 5)


Yeah, okay, it's kinda dumb, but not any more dumb than Jurassic Park was 20-something years ago, and it was entertaining and delivered on its promise of being entertaining, so I give it five stars.

In the interest of full disclosure, though, let me state that I am biased. I loved Jurassic Park when it came out; it holds the record for the movie I've seen most times in the cinema during original release. (This was back when movies stayed in the cinema for a lot longer than they do now.) I was that supremely uncool kid who had Jurassic Park t-shirts and hats and buttons and posters and toys. I had a Jurassic Park pillow and blanket and a stuffed velociraptor named Alan. (My youngest son now claims Alan as his own.) I even wrote a really terrible poem to amuse my best friend. In short, you know, I'm sort of biased.

Thing is, I didn't enjoy The Lost World at all and never even bothered with that third movie, so my love for Jurassic Park does have its limits.

But it's pretty clear the goal of Jurassic World is to bring back all the things people loved about Jurassic Park. The story is quite similar, and the film hangs plenty of lampshades, calling out all the things we remember from the first film. So we sit and we watch, and we're plenty aware it's all a bit ridiculous, but we're having fun anyway.

Jurassic World rolls the characters of Ian Malcolm, Alan Grant, and Muldoon into one Owen (Pratt), an ex-military guy hired to work with the velociraptors. He's trained them to respond to his commands and acts as their Alpha. The raptors are named Blue (the Beta), Charlie, Delta, and Echo. (Why Blue instead of Bravo? ::shrug::) Owen understands the dinosaurs and thinks of them not as "assets" (as the park workers call them) but as living creatures that are wild and unpredictable no matter how much training you may give them. And Owen also thinks about the impact of things—animals raised in captivity, what happens if or when they get loose, etc. He warns to no avail.

Meanwhile, Claire (Howard) manages the park. I guess. She's mostly on about the marketing and the bottom line and the need to create bigger and better dinosaurs to keep people coming back. I'm no fan of Bryce Dallas Howard, and we're not meant to like Claire, either, but whatever.

Claire's two nephews have come to visit (here we have the family-members-in-danger, just as Hammond's grandchildren were). And the kids in this movie are just as annoying as they were in Jurassic Park. I don't think the writers know any actual kids; I think they're just going with what they see on Disney or Nick Jr. Zach is a surly teen interested in girls and who makes bad decisions in general, and his little brother Gray is our resident dino expert. Of course Claire is too busy to actually spend any time with these kids, which means they're in the wrong place at the wrong time when the big baddie gets out.

That big bad is Indominus Rex, a genetically created new attraction. Part T-rex, part cuttlefish, part frog, and . . . well, other stuff, this is Claire's big plan to bring more people into the park. But once again the lesson is: Don't mess with nature. It will bite your f***ing head off.

You can probably map where the movie goes from there without me telling you anything more. It's pretty standard, but no less entertaining for all that. Pratt and Howard have zero chemistry, but Neill and Dern hadn't any either, and that's not why any of us are here anyway.

There were numerous problems with the park itself (aside from the dinosaurs getting out, that is). Like, why don't the rides automatically return to base when there's an emergency? Those kids shouldn't have been able to just keep going. And the ride operators should have had a bullhorn—better yet, there should have been a recorded announcement, rather than his having to shout to be heard. Little things like checking the riders' belts before sending them out? Actually, a ride like the gyro should not have gone out without a guide to keep the park patrons from doing anything they shouldn't. I don't know if the people who wrote the movie don't understand theme parks, or if this was meant to underscore how poorly managed the park was. But it seems to me if you have someone like Claire running things . . . Unless the point is she's all about numbers and marketing but can't legitimately run things in a safe way. In which case, why is she the love interest instead of someone who deserves to get eaten?

Despite the flaws (and maybe because they're easy to make fun of), I still enjoyed the movie. Part of the joy, for me, was being able to share this movie with my kids. My oldest son is nine, and to him Jurassic Park is "old." He said as much to me a few weeks ago. But then I was able to take him and his siblings to this one, and have them be wowed. It's wonderful to watch them be as enthusiastic about Jurassic World as I was about Jurassic Park back in the day. And now suddenly I'm cool because I have a bunch of old Jurassic Park stuff still lying around. And because I "raptor." Sure, I'm a nerd. But sometimes being a nerd pays off.

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