JURASSIC PARK III (2001)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sci-Fi Terror and Violence

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Directed by: Joe Johnston

Written by: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

Starring: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola & Trevor Morgan

1993’s JURASSIC PARK has stood the test of time as an incredible adventure that has left a lasting impact on the cinematic world. 1997’s THE LOST WORLD wound up being a colossal disappointment that tried way too hard to duplicate its hit predecessor’s success (going as far as damn near replicating specific scenes from the first film). You have to hand a bit of backhanded praise to JURASSIC PARK III. This third dinosaur adventure doesn’t try to duplicate the first (or even second) film, instead this third installment feels like a Syfy Channel script somehow got thrown into the JURASSIC PARK series. Talk about a decline from former glory. I really hope that JURASSIC WORLD delivers this summer, because it has a lot to make up for with both sequels taken into consideration.

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Years after the incident at Jurassic Park (not to mention a T-Rex running loose through the streets of San Diego), Alan Grant has become famous. Unfortunately, his fame is tinged with bitter resentment that most aren’t taking his science seriously and people merely give him a celebrity status for surviving Dr. Hammond’s theme park. After a particularly embarrassing lecture, Grant is hired by the Kirbys to guide them through an air tour of the Jurassic island. Not surprisingly, there are ulterior motives for his presence. Paul and Amanda Kirby are actually parents to a child who went missing near the dinosaur-populated island. Grant, Billy (one of his students), the Kirbys and a few others find themselves running for their lives from the prehistoric monsters one last time.

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JURASSIC PARK III feels like the (three!) screenwriters and director are really just scraping the bottom of the barrel in the storyline department. The excuse to get people onto the island is possibly more ridiculous than THE LOST WORLD, not to mention that the characters have the personalities of cardboard cut-outs. For a third installment of a franchise that’s had plenty of blood and dinosaurs devouring people, JURASSIC PARK III plays it insanely safe. While I don’t want unnecessarily mean-spirited kills from THE LOST WORLD, the original JURASSIC PARK had cool death scenes in spite of you being able to count the casualties on one hand. This second sequel has uninspired deaths that don’t really show the characters turning into a dinosaur buffet. There’s almost no excitement to be had as the film rushes from scene to scene with a running time of just over 90 minutes (by far the shortest of the series).

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The dinosaurs themselves feel old and tired at this point too. There’s a T-Rex for a brief second, but the Velociraptors appear multiple times throughout. You’d think bringing back the scariest part of the original film would make for some intense scenes, but you’d be sorely mistaken. These once-terrifying dinosaurs have now been replaced by cheap looking puppets (introduced in a laughable attempt at a first jump scare). The once elegant Brachiosaurus is turned into a direct-to-video quality abomination with terrible looking CGI. There are two new dinosaurs to speak of that are enjoyable enough. There’s the Spinosaurus serving as the central antagonist and at the very least, he looks cool. Then there are the flying Pteranodons appearing in the best sequence of the entire movie. The real mystery comes from this JURASSIC PARK film having the highest budget, but somehow winding up with the worst effects in the series.

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JURASSIC PARK III is by far the worst in the franchise, but it’s not an all-out failure of a movie. Even Syfy Channel flicks can be slightly enjoyable garbage from time to time. That’s precisely where I’ll categorize this third film. The two new dinosaurs bring some mild enjoyment, even if the characters are hollow (including a strapped-for-cash Sam Neill) and the story is wafer-thin. JURASSIC PARK III at least has the good sense to be short. It almost seems like the movie is desperate to get itself over with. You could do a lot worse as far as monster movies are concerned, but you can also do a hell of a lot better!

Grade: D+

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