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Review: Jurassic World

Rated PG-13

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To best enjoy Jurassic World, you need to do two things. First, take a deep breath and lower your expectations. It's unreasonable to go into the theater expecting to re-experience the sense of awe you felt when you first saw Jurassic Park.

Second, don't roll your eyes at the sillier aspects of the storyline. Executive producer Steven Spielberg and his writers opt to ignore the other two “Jurassic” films and follow the basic first sequel template: Give the audience the familiar elements they expect while upping the ante. The story they concoct gets the job done, but you need to do your part by going along with the more outlandish notions.

Here's the most outlandish notion: Remember the raptors, those extremely smart, vicious dinosaurs that stalk their prey in packs? In the new flick, there's a raptor whisperer – a guy that can control a pack of raptors through facial expressions, whistles and clicks, and hand gestures. He even refers to himself as the alpha male of the group. Ridiculous? Yes, but the raptor whisperer is played by Chris Pratt, and he does a good job making it seem plausible.

The second most outlandish notion is that Bryce Dallas Howard, playing an uptight park administrator, can successfully run from a rampaging mutant dinosaur while wearing four inch heels.

Remember, no eye-rolling.

In the film, Jurassic Park has been open for years. It's making a fortune, but like any amusement park, it needs to introduce new attractions to keep the customers excited. So a genetically-engineered new attraction is unveiled and everything at the park goes wonderfully.

Just kidding. Before the mayhem begins, director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed, my favorite film of 2012) gives us a nice long look at Jurassic Park while introducing characters and setting his stories in place.

Sullen teenager Zach (Nick Robinson) and his wide-eyed younger brother Gray (Ty Simpkins) have been sent by their soon to be divorced parents (Judy Greer and – hey, it's Michael Scott's boss from The Office - Andy Buckley) to see the dinosaurs and spend some quality time with their Aunt Claire (Howard), the park administrator with the four inch heels.

Turns out Owen the Raptor Whisperer (Pratt) once dated Claire. She thought he was a jerk and he thought she was a prig, so you know where that's going. Meanwhile a creep named Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) watches the raptor training from the shadows. He's got a plan to militarize the dinosaurs. Simon Masrami (Irrfan Khan), the new owner of the park, pops in to remind us that extremely rich guys are usually boobs. BD Wong, the only returnee from the original film, plays scientist Henry Wu, who is not as nice as we thought he was. Lauren Lapkus and “New Girl's” Jake Johnson appear as quippy technicians. And Katie McGrath plays Claire’s assistant, whose final scene in the film is … um … startling.

The whole thing boils down to Owen, Claire and the boys running from monsters, while all hell breaks loose around the park. Kinda like Sam Neill, Laura Dern and two other kids in the first movie. Chris Pratt is a charismatic leading man (no surprise there), while Bryce Dallas Howard does what she can with the sketchy role. Everybody else is fine, really, though Vincent D'Onofrio gets a bit hammy. The action is intense and exciting, and the visuals – a blend of computer images and practical effects – worked for me. Michael Giacchino's score sounds like a slightly pushier take on John Williams' score from the original. It's stirring.

As the closing credits rolled, I listened to the applause from the sneak preview audience. I wasn't as enthusiastic as they were. Certainly I enjoyed the film. I'll likely see it again with my son in a few days. But I also had a nagging sense that something was lacking. Maybe I'll figure out what on a subsequent viewing. Or maybe my slight dissatisfaction was the result of my wanting more from the sequel than it had to give. “Jurassic World” is fun. Just take a deep breath and lower your expectations.

© 2015

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