Review: 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom'

The running and screaming gets tiresome in the latest installment of this dino franchise
Chris Pratt reprises his role as the hunky raptor-whisperer in 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.'

Jeff Goldblum has the best job in the world. One of the better facets of the new Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is his bracketing performance, kvetching at a congressional panel that we've let the genie out of the bottle, awakened a sleeping giant, played God, etc. Just as a soldier's life is lots of boredom seasoned with moments of panic, Dr. Ian Malcolm's job is being a professional worrywart occasionally fleeing satansauruses. His PhD was apparently in Naysayology.

He's an odd figure in a blockbuster. Since Spielberg hired Francois Truffaut for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is Malcolm is supposed to be a surrogate for Jean-Luc Godard, laying criticism with a heavy hand on all this commercial business? His most deathless line is in Jurassic Park: The Lost World, "'Ooh, ahh,' that's always how it starts, and then later, there's running and screaming."

There is a surfeit of running and screaming in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, done mostly by Bryce Dallas Howard, whose relation to the far more interesting Laura Dern is like the difference between the first movie and this tired and strangely vicious sequel.

The novel side is that Fallen Kingdom is staged as a haunted house tale, at a fuzzily CGI'd manor as big as Hearst Castle, built somewhere in Humboldt County. Through the spooky halls creatures get loose, including a weaponized monstrousaurus stalking a little girl, Maisie (Isabella Sermon).

Three years after we saw the ruin of Jurassic World, Isla Nublar has been struck with a cataclysmic volcano. Do-gooders around the nation are protesting to Save the Dinosaurs. The former head of the park, Claire Dearing (Howard) works a phone bank to lobby the US government. A philanthropist (Rafe Spall) calls up: He has a fortune to spend at the behest of a wealthy partner in the original Jurassic Park, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell in a wheelchair and oxygen tank role). He lives in splendor with his beloved granddaughter Maisie and her nanny (Geraldine Chaplin; director Juan Antonio Bayona previously cast her in his The Orphanage).

Led by Claire and her ex-lover, the studly velociraptor-whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt), a team is sent to get the Jurassic World electronics rebooted so that the critters can be tracked and taken to a new sanctuary. Among these dino-hunters are a pair of San Franciscans: scaredy-cat programmer Franklin (Justice Smith) and the tougher biologist colleague Zia (the film's standout Daniella Pineda), who is perhaps a Marine vet, since she has a 'Semper Fi' tattoo. Owen searches the lava flows for his friend, loyal ol' Blue the Velociraptor; Claire punches keyboards, screams and runs.

Director Bayona gives this a morose, realistic side. Aspects of the movie resemble a day at a bad zoo, where the animals are stuck in claustrophobic, insufficiently cleaned cages. The fang and claw battles hurt. The deaths have too much bathos to be much fun. And there's material that's hard to justify: Whose idea was it to reference to the Schindler's List death-camp shower scene with a mixed pack of dinosaurs?

Some relief arrives from Ted Levine as an evil mercenary, who you certainly can't wait to see eaten. And Toby Jones excels as a predatory millionaire with an odd accent (he sounds like a Texan ventriloquist's dummy). Bayona and his editor Bernat Vilaplana are deft with matching edits, such as when the butting of a pachycephalosaurus cuts to the pounding of a gavel. As with the serpents' faces in Snakes on a Plane, the animators have some fun with the lead monster. It smirks like the crocodile in Peter Pan as it hunts, sometimes tapping a single footlong claw.

It's odd watching Northern California become humanity's last stand again; one wonders if there's going to be a Redwood empire-set Planet of the Apes-Jurassic Park crossover.

As for Malcolm, ushering in the sequel and delivering the final warning, he's of a sci-fi tradition but not in it. He's the traditional white-coated doctor making his warnings about the doors mankind must not open. The big difference is that he's a black-coated doctor—a look in academic circles that has been described as "intellectual thug," as when, for some reason, he wore his leather jacket to the tropics in the first Jurassic Park. Someone pays him really good money to scoff and complain, and naturally that stimulates envy in a certain type of watcher. Dr. Ian Malcolm needs a Twitter feed.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
PG-13, 128 Mins.

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