Main Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard
Director: J. A. Bayona
Things have been rather quiet around Casa Maine without Normy and his various musical projects, so I decided that
a quick trip out of town was in order. I left the house and the various branches of MNM enterprises in the capable hands of my gal Friday, Leah, (who has several exciting ideas regarding some new product lines for the holiday season such as numbered and signed strictly limited-edition Vicki Lester brand nativity scenes) and boarded a flight to LaGuardia in order to spend some time rejuvenating in Manhattan. I figured, while there, I could also make the rounds of the producers’ offices on the great white way and offer my services as a limited run replacement star if any of their long running properties should need a shot in the arm. My name on the marquee should draw in a whole new audience for them.
The flight was uneventful, but somehow the car company had forgotten to send a limo to meet my flight and I ended up having to fit myself and all 37 pieces of my Louis Vuitton luggage into an entirely too small Uber driven by Achmed. I ended up having to hold the last few bags outside of the rear window which was quite the feat in New York rush hour traffic. When I arrived at the Plaza, my usual suite had somehow been double booked and was not available. The management was apologetic, but I was not about to take a lesser room. They did find me a comfortable suite in a lesser known property further downtown on Park Avenue in the lower 20s. As I was exhausted and needed to redo my makeup, I did not fuss too much and headed downtown for a post travel nap. I also booked myself a ticket to the recent revival of My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center as I’m sure that I could be a stunning Eliza for them once Lauren Ambrose’s contract is up and I wanted to check the production out.
After my toilette, a fresh coat of paint, and changing into a lovely royal purple cocktail frock in flowing chiffon, I found I still had a number of hours before I was due at the theater, so I nipped into the local cineplex to escape the heat and settled in for the latest dino extravaganza, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. This is the second totally unnecessary sequel to the original trilogy from the 1990s. The first film directed by Steven Spielberg after the original novel by Michael Crichton, was a taut little thriller that became a minor classic. His follow up, The Lost World, was a bloated mess, and the third one, made by a lesser film maker was quickly forgotten. The franchise was resurrected by Universal Pictures in 2015 in search of a quick buck with Jurassic World where a new cast, led by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, ran screaming through a functional, rather than a prototype, dinosaur-based amusement park trying to avoid being eaten by T-Rexes and velociraptors. By the end of that film, the park was in ruins and our surviving characters were likely to be sued into oblivion by the families of park goers who had inadvertently become dino chow.
The current film takes us back to Isla Nublar where the dinosaurs are still walking around the ruined park. After a brief prologue involving the Mosasaurus, which has no real payoff and doesn’t come back until a throw away movement at the end of the movie when we’ve completely forgotten about it, we join Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who, despite still having power hair, is now working for a small nonprofit lobbying group full of millennial hipsters that’s trying to save the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, Isla Nublar is an active volcano in full eruption, so she has to get back together with her old frenemy flame Owen (Chris Pratt) and head off to the island to try and save some of the creatures, especially the velociraptor Blue who had bonded with Owen as her trainer. They arrive with a couple of annoying millennial hipster sidekicks (Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda) who seem to exist mainly to cover plot holes as they turn up at exactly the right time in various unbelievable ways to let our protagonists move forward. There’s also a nasty mercenary (Ted Levine) who is busy double crossing everyone on orders from an unscrupulous businessman (Rafe Spall) who is running a secret dino lab in the basement of John Hammond’s business partner’s mountain retreat. How the business partner (James Cromwell), his chatelaine (Geraldine Chaplin) and moppet granddaughter (Isabella Sermon) could have lived in the house and not noticed a huge dino sized facility being constructed under their feet is not explained. Eventually, the island explodes, the surviving cast and dinosaurs all end up at a secret dino auction in the secret dino lair and all hell breaks lose with dinosaurs rampaging through and destroying sort of woodsy Biltmore.
I don’t mind a good popcorn movie, but Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is just stupid. The plot has holes large enough to drive H3 Hummers through. The characters routinely violate the laws of physics and thermodynamics. There are a couple of cameos from characters from the original movie which are just sort of tossed out there without much context. The dialogue is insipid. The script by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow (who also wrote the original Jurassic World) hits all the required beats: narrow escapes, villains meeting satisfying endings, unexpected reveals regarding cloning, big dinosaurs being bested by smaller, cleverer dinosaurs, but it’s all so formulaic and we’ve seen it so many times before that none of it really means anything. Directing chores, done by Mr. Trevorrow last time, are handled by Spaniard J. A. Bayona, best known for the taut little thriller, The Orphanage. While everything is competently put together, I don’t think he was really comfortable with a huge Hollywood effects film and it’s missing the little touches that a Spielberg would use to make the film more personal and have it bounce along.
I think the problem is that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is simply too big and too all over the place. We don’t need exploding volcanoes, corporate shenanigans, and touching surrogate family stories in the same film. The ingredients don’t gel properly and there’s really no way to stitch all those pieces together in a way that will make them a coherent whole. What made the first film in the franchise such a classic was the relatively confined setting and a small number of sharply defined characters that made it easy to keep track of heroes and villains. The second film, with its protracted San Diego sequence, made the mistake of going too big and this one does the same thing. When they blow up Isla Nublar half way through the film and suddenly switch to the coast range of California, it’s almost as if we’re in a whole different film.
Both Mr. Pratt and Ms. Howard appear to be uncomfortable in their roles. You can almost see the ‘I have a three-film contract, so I have to do this’ written across their faces. There’s nothing special about them and whatever chemistry they had in the previous film, they seem to have lost in the interim. Most of the supporting cast is serviceable (although the two hipster folk are like nails on a chalkboard) and there are even one or two that seem to be having fun, especially Toby Jones as the unctuous auctioneer at the dino auction.
What can I say? Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is well made, but not good. If you want to spend a few hours watching the same dino chases you’ve seen before, go. I’d recommend something a little more constructive, however, like cleaning the lint trap on the dryer.
Private museum. Surprise clone. Close lava calls. Truck stealing. Gratuitous B.D. Wong. Sad and abandoned brachiosaurus. Dumbwaiter rides. Symbolic cane smashing. Endangered surfers.
See the original instead!