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Picks and Pans Review: Jurassic Park

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Richard Attenborough, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Samuel Jackson

It would appear that much more effort and imagination have been expended on the marketing of this film than on its creation. But it still has a few moments where its heavy-glitz, high-tech approach renders it a thriller extravagant and imposing enough to make. Jaws seem like a saga about misunderstood tropical fish.

Attenborough, in a standard mad-scientist role, is a Scottish theme-park owner who uses DNA information extracted from dinosaur blood fossilized in amber to create living dinosaurs by means of genetic engineering. Goldblum is a mathematician who’s an adviser to Attenborough (he keeps muttering such comments as “The lack of humility before nature here is staggering”). Dern and Neill are flora and fauna experts called in to check out the park and, Attenborough hopes, validate its scientific worth. Jackson is a computer technician who oversees the park’s intricate security system, designed to keep visitors from becoming dino-snacks.

Despite the presence of all this acting talent, it is the film’s special effects, especially the work of “dinosaur supervisor” Phil Tippett, that carry the day. It’s not saying too much to call these limber, fluid-motion monsters the most impressive dinosaurs in movie history; remember, we’re talking epics like One Million B.C. and Valley of Gwangi here.

The problem is the dinosaurs don’t sustain two hours of admiration. Nor do screenwriters Michael Crichton (on whose 1990 book the film is based) and David Koepp and director Steven Spielberg derive much in the way of terror from them. The dinosaurs” inevitable rampage unreels without much flair or wit, though Goldblum refutes the comment that even Disneyland had its glitches by noting, “Yeah, but when Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” (PG-13)