Jurassic Park III
The credits to Jurassic Park III divide responsibility for its music between two people: John Williams gets credit for original themes, Don Davis for the score itself. That split, and the way it plays out in the film, pretty much sums up JP3. The familiar passages of Williams' Jurassic Park score pop up so frequently that there hardly seems to be any original material at all. The latest sequel to Steven Spielberg's clever, scary 1993 original is even less necessary than Spielberg's borderline nonsensical (but still pretty entertaining) 1997 follow-up, The Lost World. As unnecessary sequels go, however, this one's a lot more acceptable than most. Sam Neill returns for duty from the first film, joined in a few scenes by Laura Dern as his still-friendly ex-wife. His paleontology career once again desperately in need of funding, Neill, against his better judgement, follows the promise of a blank check and joins William H. Macy and Téa Leoni for what they promise will be a pleasure cruise over dinosaur central. Actually, the estranged couple (who grow increasingly less estranged as the film progresses) have set out in search of their son, who disappeared over the island after a dinosaur-related paragliding incident. In addition to the obvious appeal of dinosaurs on the rampage, the key to the Jurassic Park series comes from throwing unlikely character actors into the middle of an action film, and JP3 is no exception in this respect. Macy's ineffectual mustache may get to do more acting than he does, but it's a pleasure to have him along for the ride. Business as usual dominates the film, which brings in flying dinos and a creature larger than a T-Rex to spice up the mix. The effects look as good, if not better, than ever, and while director Joe Johnston doesn't have Spielberg's knack for set-pieces, he knows how to let the monsters steal the show. Aiming squarely for the kiddie crowd, PG-13 rating and all, the film pares the plot down to its barest essentials. Election and Citizen Ruth co-screenwriters Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor did work on the script, but a couple of Oklahoma jokes seem to be their only recognizable contribution. Maybe Jurassic Park 4 will bring in Lem Dobbs to pen a film in which Peter Falk, Sam Rockwell, and Martha Plimpton spend 90 minutes running in terror from a pack of raptors.