Jurassic Park III (2001) / Adventure-Sci Fi

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence
Running time: 92 min.

Cast: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leone, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan
Director:
Joe Johnston
Screenplay: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Review published July 20, 2001

This third installment of the Jurassic Park series is the first not directed by Steven Spielberg, and it shows.  If a great director like Steven Spielberg had run out of gas with this material before The Lost World (the second film), it would seem an almost impossible task for a director of lesser skill like Joe Johnston (Jumanji, Honey I Shrink the Kids) to make anything of substance.  Even going into it with low expectations, I still came away disappointed at how sub-par the series has become.  Just like the Jaws series that Spielberg kicked off, the Jurassic Park series appears to be in a nosedive of exponentially abysmal proportions.

The story starts off with a man and a young boy that go paragliding only to have a forced crash landing on the island of Isla Sorna, the infamous second Jurassic Park island.  The boy's parents, played by William H. Macy (State and Main) and Tea Leone (Deep Impact), travel to the island in hopes of rescuing their son, dragging along Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill (Bicentennial Man) from the first film), who is none too happy about being thrown among the ruthless predators again.  Golly gee, you don't think their plane might crash causing them to have to deal with dino-angst for 90 minutes, do you?

I can't imagine what was said in the board room when this third movie was pitched, but it must have been something like, "Hey, I got a great idea for JP3!  Like, um, ya see, we have people go back to the island and there's like some of them flying dinos!  Wow, that would look soooo cool!"

Those flying dinosaurs, if you haven't seen the trailer or the movie poster, are pteranodons, which are basically as menacing as giant featherless pelicans.  Outside of this one minor introduction, there is nothing, and I mean nothing that is new that Jurassic Park III adds to the series. 

I don't want to ruin this for anybody, but here's the movie: people get on island, Red-shirted people get chomped, people with more than two lines in the film get off island.  Should I have mentioned **SPOILER ALERT**??

I do realize that Michael Crichton did not write a book this time out that might have been adapted to at least form an intelligent backbone for the film, so I knew this had the likelihood of being a no-brain chomp-fest.  However, I expected a little bit more from screenwriters Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Election, Citizen Ruth), who could not have taken more than a day working on this threadbare and astonishingly inconsequential script.  They feebly try to inject some humor, but only the inclusion of the world's most famous purple dinosaur could manage so much as a chuckle.  

If there's only one funny moment to the film, there is also one moment of true terror, which actually happens at the end of the film.  No, not in the laughable climax, but at the very end as the credits roll and you realize there might actually be a Jurassic Park IV.  (SHREEK!!)  If there is one thing to be learned after watching Jurassic Park III, it's this:  one should not try to resurrect something that was dead a long time ago.

Qwipster's rating:

2001 Vince Leo