Movie review: ‘Jurassic Park III’

I didn’t want to review big-budget, top-of-the-box-office hits on the blog but I decided to make another exception when I recently re-watched “Jurassic Park III.” It has a limited cast because of the story and relies tremendously on its special effects (no real typical award winner for thespians with that caveat), but it truly is an excellent motion picture with wonderful work from its cast. Of course everyone was blown away again by a “Jurassic” movie – remember the original was definitely special and this one takes its dinosaur effects to a new level. While Sam Neill reprises his role as the headliner, it is a sterling performance from another that earns the best actor nod here. Check out “Jurassic Park III” again if you haven’t seen it in some time … or even if you just saw it last week, see it again. You can’t go wrong.

‘Jurassic Park III’
(2001; 92 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Joe Johnston and starring Sam Neill, William H. Macy and Téa Leoni)

GOING TO THESE ISLANDS IS A REALLY BAD IDEA

(NOTE: I expanded this review with some additional opinion; updated some links; and added some trivia on March 25, 2017.)

It’s not always easy in a big screen spectacular for the actors to stand above the action or for a limited cast to make such a big impact (think Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”). Still, take a look at “Jurassic Park III” and you’ll find as solid a body of work from a film’s supporting actors as you will anywhere. It is a good motion picture made better by special effects and not the other way around.

(CLICK HERE FOR ALL MY MOVIE REVIEWS)

Although Sam Neill, who reprises his role as “Alan Grant” (I won’t bend to convention to do the narcissistic PhD convention by calling him “doctor,” even though Neill’s character is low-key and humble and worthy) and he does a great turn, but he’s overshadowed by Oscar winner William H. Macy, who plays “Paul Kirby” and who is leading a rescue effort to the island of the dinosaurs.

In case you missed the original (and I hope you skipped the simply horrid first sequel), the franchise is set on islands off the coast of Costa Rica, where an entertainment mogul once built a zoo for his collection of cloned dinosaurs. Everything went wrong with the original plan and “Jurassic Park III” picks up as if “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” didn’t happen (thank goodness). This time a boy and his mother’s boyfriend are parasailing near the island and get stranded after their boat is attacked by (obviously) pteranodons. The boy’s mother and father (they’re divorced) then launch a rescue operation by hiring who they believe are mercenaries and then tricking Neill into going back to what they believe is the island from the first movie – it isn’t because there were two islands developed and that’s the neat twist to the beginning of the film.

Of course the bulk of “Jurassic Park III” is the group’s going to the island (bad idea), landing on the island (worse idea) and then beginning to move around the island (the worst idea, but unavoidable). Continuing the “of course” theme, it all goes wrong and they jump from one deadly situation to another.  They encounter not only earth-bound dinosaurs, but also flying ones, too, in a massive aviary.

Many little details make “Jurassic Park III” even better on many levels than the original. One neat one is that the group hears their satellite phone ringing and then realize it is inside of the biggest, most wicked dinosaur of all – it takes you a second to remember that it had eaten one of the group and consumed the phone in the process (spoiler alert: they find it later after it passes).

  • Neill is solid here and continues the great work he started in the original. He does an excellent job in keeping his cool and conveying this coolness to the others at just the proper times. He was also in “The Hunt for Red October” and is not often remembered as the grown-up “Damien” in “The Final Conflict,” which is a sequel to the classic horror film “The Omen” (click here for my review of the original).
  • As I’ve already written, Macy does the best job of any actor here. He’s just one step above a schlep, but is extraordinarily motivated to rescue his son. Macy does a good job conning Neill but is a bit less than forceful when dealing with his ex-wife. Macy is just terrific in just about anything – he’s done dark drama (“The Cooler,” the original “Fargo” and especially “Panic” with Neve Campbell – click here for my review) as well as other drama such as “Boogie Nights” and he also does lighter drama well, too, as he did in “Thank You for Smoking” (click here for my review).
  • Téa Leoni plays “Amanda Kirby” and is terrific with one exception: her character is required to scream when she’s startled. In this day and age I believe this makes it almost stereotypical as women on screen have typically screamed whenever threatened and it actually begins to grate here. I believe Leoni would have done the character with a bit more early spine if she had the choice and she picks up the pace a bit and winds up with a winning effort. Leoni was even better in “You Kill Me” with Ben Kingsley (click here for my review) and was also good in “The Family Man” with Nicolas Cage (click here for my review).
  • Trevor Morgan, who was 14 when “Jurassic Park III” was released, gives a truly competent effort here. It’s not always easy as the kid actor playing off a professional with Neill’s skills, but the two of them make a great team. Morgan has also been in “The Sixth Sense” and was in 2014’s oddly named “Buttwhistle.”
  • Alessandro Nivola plays Neill’s sidekick “Billy Brennan” and he is the cause of much of the group’s troubles with the raptors (they had enough with other dinosaurs without having cheesed off the nasty killers, too). Nivola had a chance to make his character stand out, but he didn’t and “Billy” barely remains on you radar screen an hour after you watch the film. He was also in “American Hustle” and “Face/Off.”
  • Michael Jeter plays the spindly and creepy “Udesky,” who is hired by Macy to put together the rescue team of mercenaries. However, as he admits at one point, he’s just kind of travel agent. Jeter makes the most out of his role and you enjoy it while he’s still alive (oops … should have spoiler-alerted that one). He was also in “The Green Mile” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Jurassic Park III” was the ninth ranked film at the 2001 box office with $181.1 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Worldwide, “Jurassic Park III” made $368.7 million on its $93 million budget, according to Wiki. The year’s No. 1 film was “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” with $317.5 million. Here are the other films from 2001 that I’ve reviewed:

Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Jeff Goldblum, who played “Ian Malcolm” in the first two “Jurassic” films, was not invited back for this one. I’m kind of ambivalent on him being in this one. He was worthy in the original, but an annoyance in the first sequel. Hmmm. Maybe his work the second shouldn’t determine whether he had returned for the next one because it was a complete annoyance in and of itself.
  • When Neill and Nivola enter the bar for dinner with Macy and Leoni, you can see a “Jurassic Park”-themed pinball machine in the background.
  • Oscar-nominee (for “Rambling Rose”) Laura Dern reprises her role from the original as “Ellie Satler” with a brief appearance (she doesn’t go to the island but is the hero anyway). It’s difficult to give a grade for her here since it is such a small part.
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “The effects crew used 250 gallons of oatmeal to simulate Spinosaur droppings.” Click here for IMDb.com’s extensive trivia page about the movie.

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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