REVIEW: “Jurassic World”

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When will they ever learn? Sure, the idea of mixing living, breathing dinosaurs with a theme park sounds like a lucrative can’t-miss idea. But three movies have proven that it leads to nothing but disaster (and a boatload of box office cash). The Jurassic Park franchise has laid dormant for 14 years so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that this sequel and reboot driven movie era would usher in a new installment. What made it an easier decision was the fact that all three of the previous movies did extremely well at the box office. So Universal Studios greenlights a $150 million budget and the result is “Jurassic World” – a poster child for safe, crowd pleasing, summer popcorn flicks.

“Jurassic World” recycles several things from the first film except this time things are a little cheesier, motivations are a little goofier, and many of the people are a little dumber. But that doesn’t mean the film is short on big cool dinosaur moments. There were times when I literally laughed and shook my head at the corny dialogue or stereotypical character. At the same time there were several scenes where I found myself absolutely thrilled at the action or the spectacle on the screen. It’s a conflicting mixture of good and bad which makes my final thoughts on the film hard to nail down.

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Chris Pratt is everywhere these days and in “Jurassic World” he stays within his ‘likable, everyday guy’ comfort zone. He plays a velociraptor trainer named Owen working in the Jurassic World theme park. He’s joined by a plump cast featuring Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, the park’s director of operations, her two nephews (and obligatory kids) Zach and Grey, B.D. Wong as the park’s chief scientist responsible for creating the dinos, Irrfan Lhan as Simon, the owner and bankroller of the park, Vincent D’Onofrio as the sleazy, shady Hoskins, Omar Sy as Owen’s buddy and fellow trainer Barry, and a host of others.

Basically the story places all if these characters on the island park each with their own little threads of story. For example Claire has agreed to keep her nephews for the week even though she is too busy at the park to entertain them. The boys have the baggage of a possible divorce between their parents back home. Claire had a brief ‘thing’ with Owen in the past but that’s long gone. Now he is butting heads with Hoskins who wants to use Owen’s velociraptors for nefarious purposes. Simon has noble intentions but his demands for bigger attractions open the door for his aggressive science team to do some pretty questionable experiments. And on and on and on. Rarely do any of these subplots leave an impression, but they set the table for the movie’s main attractions – big dinosaurs.

One thing “Jurassic World” does well is presentation. Visually the world we see is vast and filled with impressive creatures and cool landscapes. The dinosaurs themselves look great. Their movements and the way they blend into the world almost allows the audience to completely forget the heavy CGI behind it. I was also impressed by the design and feel of the park. The rides, exhibits, and attractions were well thought out and genuinely believable taking elements from everything from Sea World to Disneyland. Overall the film is just as visually strong as you would expect, and those going for the wild dino-carnage will not be disappointed.

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But I can’t say the same if you’re going into “Jurassic World” hoping for an engaging story. At its very base level the story gets by, but there are plenty of other things that simply don’t work. Again, the characters are pretty one-dimensional, stereotypical, and forgettable. We aren’t given anyone to latch onto. Some are just flat-out bad. D’Onofrio’s Hoskins may be the prime example. The performance isn’t great but the way he is written is even worse. Then there are turns in the story that are too stupid to let slide. I won’t spoil anything but certain evil plans we see are beyond preposterous. Then throw in some incredibly cheesy dialogue and scenes which actually had me laughing and shaking my head in the theater.

So storytelling isn’t the strong point of “Jurassic World”. In fact, the writing keeps it from being the intelligent, engaging film that it could be. But at the same time I actually found myself entertained in the way that big budget summer popcorn flicks sometimes manage to pull off. The visual spectacle, the dinosaur fights, the theme park environment all work to immerse you in a really cool setting. It’s just too bad the underwhelming story, narrative hiccups, and bland characters drag it down to passable but ultimately forgettable levels.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

3 Stars