'Jurassic World' looks like low-to-mid-range Spielberg

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

'Jurassic World,' starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, offers mid-grade thrills from first-class dinosaurs.

Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/AP
'Jurassic World' stars (from l.) Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Nick Robinson, and Ty Simpkins.

It’s been 14 years since the last of the three previous “Jurassic Park” movies, so you can’t exactly accuse Universal Pictures and Steven Spielberg of racing to cash in with “Jurassic World.”

Not much has changed in the interim, aside from the fact that Colin Trevorrow, with only one small prior movie to his credit, has replaced Spielberg as director, although in terms of its thrills and graphic design, it still looks like a low-to-mid-range Spielberg effort. 

The world in “Jurassic World” harks back to Spielberg’s 1993 original, dispensing with the back story of the two previous (and much less successful) entries.

The dinosaur theme park, located on a Costa Rican island reachable by big boats, resembles a cross between the Universal Studios tour and a mini-Epcot Center. Tourists mingle with genetically engineered herbivore dinos; the main attraction is a sea monster that shoots up out of his aquarium tank to gobble a great white shark dangling from a hook in midair. (Too bad the guys in “Jaws” didn’t know about this.)

Thrill-wise, it’s all rather benign, which is why a secret project is about to unleash a scary new T. rex – Indominus rex – that hopefully will boost attendance.

Into the great maw of Jurassic World troops teenage Zach (Nick Robinson) and his geeky younger brother Gray (Ty Simpkins). Their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) manages the place but, aside from getting them VIP passes, doesn’t really keep an eye on them. She wears high heels in the jungle – that should tell you all you need to know. She also has an abrasive connection with former Navy stalwart and raptor wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) that can only mean one thing – romance ahead!  

Alas, their chemistry, as inevitably they flee Indominus and Co., is something of a fizzle, and the two boys are never sharply enough defined to make us care if they get gobbled or not. And since we know they won’t be, the tension with these two is even slacker. But Trevorrow and his co-screenwriters (Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Derek Connolly) do bring some nice low-key touches to the thudfest, and action is satisfying, if not galvanizing.

It’s nice to know, too, that in the intervening 14 years, corporate greed – personified here by Vincent D’Onofrio’s bad guy, who wants to convert the raptors into superdrones – is as ripe as ever. And speaking of greed, let’s see if it takes another 14 years for the sequel.

Grade: B- (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.)

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