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If ‘Fallen Kingdom’ is the Best They Can Do, Maybe it’s Time to Let ‘Jurassic Park’ Go Extinct

To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum from the first “Jurassic Park” film: “the executives at Universal were so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a “Jurassic World” sequel, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the sequel to the 2015 blockbuster that confirmed Chris Pratt as a leading man and (for a time) owned multiple box office records. This time around, with the island of Isla Nublar set to fall victim to a volcanic eruption, Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) must return to the abandoned theme park to try and rescue the remaining creatures. J. A. Bayona takes over director duties from Colin Trevorrow (who returns to write the screenplay with Derek Connolly) as Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones and Isabella Sermon all join the cast.

I really loved the first “Jurassic World.” It was a fun summer surprise (that I saw three times in theaters) and really thought it captured the fun and thrills that a film of that genre should. Yet despite that, I really wasn’t looking forward to this sequel all too much. The trailers did nothing for me and as we got more and more of them it just seemed like they were struggling to find new places to take the franchise. And after seeing the actual film, it is obvious they are struggling to find new places to take the franchise.

Let’s talk about the good first. There are brief moments throughout the film that play almost like a horror movie and I think that is when director Bayona felt most comfortable, which makes sense since his breakout film was “The Orphanage” in 2007. Dinosaurs are killing machines, there shouldn’t really be a scene in the entire film that doesn’t have a sense of threat surrounding, and Bayona makes good use of shadows and sound to convey that fear.

Chris Pratt is too good for us and he is too good for movies like this, but he tries his best to make the best of a weak script. Occasionally his charm bleeds through and he gets one fight scene to flex his muscles but most of the time you can see the embarrassment in his eyes and the “this is paying for your beach house” in his line delivery. Isabella Sermon, who plays the young granddaughter of James Cromwell (who in-turn is playing an old partner of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond), does alright keeping up with the likes of Pratt and Howard, although her character adds nothing to the story save for one twist that is eye-rollingly dumb. Also Sermon, an English actress, speaks only half of her lines in American so they literally added a scene where her nanny is struggling to teach her how to speak with an English accent to try and cover for it. It’s funny to realize but lazy by the filmmakers.

The first “Jurassic World” had its moments of cringe humor but it also had some comedic moments that worked (“I was with the Navy, not the Navajo!”). Here near everything is a swing and a miss, from the jokes to the over-the-top acting (mainly by a shrieking Justice Smith). There are moments of possible tension that are ruined by “jokes” and while that is a problem that plagues many Marvel movies, those jokes are at least actually funny and they’re characters we’d expect it from (including Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord). The script here just felt like a first draft, with unpolished dialogue and numerous conveniences, and they clearly assumed this thing would crank out a billion dollars no matter the quality.

What truly hinders this film, however, is just that we’ve seen this all done before and it has either been done better or are parts of previous “Jurassic” films that people noted as not liking. Take the dinosaurs off the island? Didn’t work in “The Lost World” but let’s try it again here. Create a super dinosaur with a grab-bag of powers that work for the plot? Really annoyed some people in the last film but that made $1.5 billion so what do people know? And so on.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is a massive letdown and wastes a great director and charismatic star. There are a handful of thrills and exciting moments, as well as those darker bits I mentioned, but they just never mesh and the sense of “been there, done that” is more powerful now more than ever. As Jeff Goldblum is asked during a senate hearing, “should these be left to die?” and if they’re talking about the “Jurassic Park” franchise then to that I say, maybe it is time.

Critic’s Grade: C–


‘Budapest Hotel’ Is Good, Not Grand

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_PosterIt isn’t too often that you can walk into a movie and know exactly what it is you’re in store for, however you know exactly what you’re getting with a Wes Anderson flick: there will be quick cuts, colorful backdrops and quirky characters. And his newest film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is nothing different.

The film stars Ralph Fiennes as a concierge who teams up with the hotel’s lobby boy to prove his innocence after he is framed for murder. Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum also star, with Anderson directing and writing the script.

What makes “Budapest” so much fun is how charming and unique all of its characters are. Ralph Fiennes does a marvelous job as the flamboyant concierge, winning over everyone that he crosses paths with and giving blunt and humorous responses to even the most obscure situations.

While all the members of the cast do a good job, perhaps the best comes from newcomer Tony Revolori, who plays the lobby boy and Fiennes’ right hand man. Revolori has great chemistry and banter with Fiennes, and has a special screen-presence about him.

The film features some great writing by Anderson, and when paired with Fiennes’ performance the film delivers several big laughs. However there are times where there will be something shocking or grim, and the film expects you to laugh at the incident, but all you do is sit there somewhat awkwardly, unsure if it would be socially acceptable to laugh or not. For example a man throws a cat out a window for comedic effect, but you aren’t sure how to react because the characters are giving off different vibes. This happened a couple times and it took me out of the movie for a minute.

The film’s other flaw is the plot isn’t always on a straight line. It starts off in a memory and then goes into two flashbacks more before actually beginning the main story, and then goes off on several tangents that feel unnecessary before finally reaching a climax. Many of these sidetracks were just excuses for Anderson to include his friends in the film, and while it was fun seeing various cameos, it made the film feel a bit longer than it actually is.

In the end, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a good movie, not a grand one. It features numerous fun performances, especially those of Fiennes and Revolori, as well as some clever dialogue and intriguing backdrops. If you’re a casual moviegoer then I say give the film a chance. Sure it has some awkward and abstract features, but when you get down to it, it is a unique and original film, and those are hard to come by nowadays.

Critics Rating: 7/10