Jurassic Park III (review)

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Escape from Isla Sorna

If you erect a trampoline in your backyard, it doesn’t matter how well you fence it in and lock it up: something like that is gonna be too irresistibly alluring for the neighborhood kids not to sneak in and jump on it. And no matter how well you secure the thing, you’re probably still going to be held liable when some idiot kid eventually falls off it and breaks his neck, never mind that he was trespassing on your property in the middle of the night when it happened. The trampoline is what insurance people call an “attractive nuisance,” and the only way not to be legally responsible for what even morons do with it is not to have the thing in the first place.

Isla Sorna has become something of an attractive nuisance these days. Never mind that InGen’s real-life monster island is surrounded by restricted airspace and that travel to it is absolutely forbidden. Never mind that it’s common knowledge that people have been eaten there. Does this stop adventurous types from trying to catch a glimpse of an honest-to-goodness genetically engineered freak dinosaur? Of course not. InGen’s legal budget must require advanced mathematics to grasp.

The Jurassic Park movies themselves have become an attractive nuisance. I was trying not to hold out much hope for Jurassic Park III — I kept remembering Jaws 3 — yet I was inexplicably drawn to it, like a mothra to a flame. Dinosaurs! Completely realistic-looking dinosaurs! Plus cutie Sam Neill! What could be better?

So it is with great relief that I can say that Jurassic Park III is a helluva lotta fun. Great film it ain’t, and it barely even attempts the minimal anti-Frankenstein message of the original or its first sequel, but it doesn’t matter: People get eaten by dinosaurs. And there’s, like, new dinosaurs! There’s the one with the big thing on its back (imagine an impossibly excited five-year-old me, crouched over and miming a huge spiny fin on my back)! And the flying ones (now I’m flapping my arms)! And there’s T-rex and brachiosaurs and raptors! I’m dying to go to the natural history museum now.

So: Isla Sorna, where idiots apply for a Darwin Award. Wealthy adventurers Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy: State and Main, Happy, Texas, and Téa Leoni: The Family Man, Deep Impact) convince Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill: The Horse Whisperer, The Hunt for Red October) to come along on their flyover of Isla Sorna as a tour guide by writing a honking big check to support his research. Alan had a bad feeling about the trip, and his turns out to be, naturally, the sole voice of reason as things go from merely potentially ill-advised to actively disastrous.

The plane crashes. Some actors who got paid less than Macy and Leoni and Neill get eaten immediately, in frighteningly funny-scary ways. The survivors must find a way to get to the coast and signal for help — a bonfire, maybe — because, well, the satellite phone has been eaten, too. It’s almost exactly like Cast Away, if Wilson had had six-inch teeth and a rapacious appetite. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, and we are being served.

This is, ironically, the best video game movie of the summer, with the thrills and chills and laughs you expect from a participatory game. A genuine sense of menace — the very real possibility that almost anyone onscreen could game-over at any moment — is what’s been absent from too many popcorn flicks this year. We never fear for Lara Croft, but you may find yourself pulling your feet up onto the seat in the multiplex during JP3, lest something underneath jump out and eat you.

No lawyers were harmed in the making of this film.

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