JURASSIC PARK III —** 1/2 — Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, Laura Dern, John Diehl; PG-13 (violence, brief gore, vulgarity); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16; Cinemark Jordan Landing Theaters; Loews Cineplex Midvalley and Trolley Corners Cinemas; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons; Redwood Drive-in (with "The Fast and the Furious"); Westates Holladay Centre and Trolley North Theaters.
Being a half-hour shorter than either of its two predecessors, the leaner, meaner "Jurassic Park III" doesn't have a whole lot of time for storytelling — and that's both a good thing and bad thing.
On one hand, this roller-coaster ride of a sequel doesn't get bogged down in all the exposition and pseudo-scientific jargon that bogged down the other films. But as a consequence, the storytelling is so rushed that there are huge, gaping holes in the plot. (And perhaps the worst thing about the movie is its "what-the?" ending, which suggests the cast and crew arrived on set that day without any script at all and simply improvised something.)
Still, the unsatisfactory story and script aren't quite enough to completely ruin this little slam-bang affair. Admittedly, it's pretty brain-dead, but for at least an hour, you probably won't care.
The sole returning character this time is paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), who's vowed to never come face-to-face with a live dinosaur again. That resolve is about to be tested when he is approached to be a tour guide for Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni), a wealthy couple who want to fly over Ingen's dinosaur habitats.
However, Alan realizes that he's been had when the plane lands and a band of mercenaries begins a search-and-rescue mission — to find the Kirbys' son, Eric (Trevor Morgan), who went missing near the island nearly two months before.
That's OK because he has some bad news for them as well — the island they've landed on, Isla Sorna, or "Site B," actually has some even bigger, badder menaces to contend with.
To his credit, Joe Johnston does a more than adequate job replacing his mentor, Steven Spielberg, in the director's chair (he even works in a couple of sly nods to Spielberg). In particular, he's able to sustain a constant sense of danger and tension, both of which were lacking in the second film.
Unfortunately, he's strapped with a messy script that was worked on by at least a dozen different writers — one that brings up more issues than it could ever satisfactorily address in such a short time.
As far as the cast is concerned, Neill manages to make us care about his life-or-death battle, despite his part being underwritten, Leoni struggles to bring dignity to the role of a histrionic mother, and Macy injects some much-needed humor and personality. (Still, all three pale in comparison to the digital and effects-heavy predators, which, this time, include a particularly nasty spinosaur and a pack of smarter raptors, as well as some ankylosaurs and pteranodons.)
"Jurassic Park III" is rated PG-13 for violent, often terrifying dinosaur attacks, brief gore and some crude humor (relating to dinosaur dung). Running time: 91 minutes.