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If Chris Pratt’s character on Parks and Recreation, Andy Dwyer, were to write a movie script about a dinosaur park starring his alter-ego, karate-chopping FBI agent Burt Macklin, it would probably look a lot like Jurassic World.
That may sound like a negative reaction, and I don’t necessarily intend it as a positive one; but I can’t entirely pan the movie either.
There is a sense in which Jurassic World doesn’t seem to be trying to be a good film in the accepted definition of the word, merely an outrageously action-packed one. How seriously can one take, for example, a storyline that begins with a genetically engineered super-dino christened Indominus Rex? Or one that includes an evil private security contractor with a plan to replace drones and other wartime technology with weaponized velociraptors? Perhaps there’s some analysis to be made of Hollywood’s ongoing unflattering portrayals of our military, but that would be giving the script way (read that as way, way, way) too much credit.
The rest of the storyline gleefully includes every eye-roll-inducing trope ever crammed into a summer popcorn flick. The ruggedest of rugged men, former Navy Seal Owen Grady (Pratt) now works as a dinosaur whisperer at the revived Jurassic Park. In case the audience has any question about Owen’s place in this jungle, when another character asks who the alpha is among a pack of razor-toothed reptiles, Owen replies, with maximum swagger, “You’re lookin’ at him.”
Is there anyone who can’t guess how things will play out when buttoned-up-yet-beautiful executive Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is forced to ask Owen (a man she ostensibly loathes) to help her secure the premises after a dino jailbreak? Eventually, we know, Owen’s regular displays of manliness will make her sharp, corporate hairstyle go as soft and fluttery as her heart.
A pair of children are running around trying not to get eaten as well, but they’re largely beside the point. Merely plot movers, there to make sure Owen and Claire must constantly venture together into the Jurassic wilds and ludicrously throw themselves in harm’s way. Half the time Pratt and Howard look as if they’re about to burst out laughing. And well they should. Their dialogue is beyond clichéd, as is Howard’s increasingly, but alluringly, shredded wardrobe. If her chest heaved any more, it might actually separate from the rest of her body.
It’s as if writer/director Colin Trevorrow recognizes there’s no competing with Steven Spielberg’s tense 1993 classic, and so instead sets himself the task of creating a cult classic. And he may very well succeed. Jurassic World is to Park what King Solomon’s Mines is to Indiana Jones. That is, they’re not even close to the same league artistically, yet there’s no denying the former will have, for Mystery Science Theater–loving types, a certain campy appeal.
There’s also no denying the magnificent 3-D extravaganza on display. It’s actually a shame the PG-13-rated film includes so many excessively bloody moments and several annoying expletives that feel at odds with the whole’s overall spirit. Without them, it’d be an easy movie to recommend as a dad/offspring date for the kind of dads who can embrace corny one-liners when uttered by a muscle-bound hero carrying a flame-thrower in one hand (which, in my experience, is most of them).
Summer moviegoers cannot live by superheroes alone, and darn if the entire time my grown-up, film critic head was saying, This is so stupid, some little-kid corner of my heart wasn’t crowing, and yet so awesome.
Listen to Emily Whitten’s review of Jurassic World on The World and Everything in It.