Shhhh! It’s the Raptor Whisperer.
It’s Chris Pratt, playing a guy named Owen, gazing deep into the reptilian peepers of a bunch of snarling Velociraptors, controlling them with a kind of mind meld in “Jurassic World.” Impressive, yes?
Uh, no. Silly, is more like it. Gesturing hypnotically, Pratt … Sorry. Must wait for giggles to subside.
Welcome to “Jurassic World,” by far the funniest “Jurassic” picture ever unleashed by Steven Spielberg.
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That’s not by overall design, though there are morsels of intentional humor scattered throughout the picture. One of the funnier of those is the Pratt character’s mocking reference to the “ridiculous shoes,” worn by co-star Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, a well turned-out corporate higher-up. They’re spiky-heeled numbers not well-suited to outrunning a wide assortment of computer-generated prehistoric beasties.
For the rest, absurdity of plotting meets stupidity of character actions and the result is lots of unintended laughs.
Jeff Goldblum’s sardonic scientist Ian Malcolm isn’t in “Jurassic World,” but his best line from “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” sums up this latest iteration: “ ‘Oooh! Aaah!’ That’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running … and screaming.”
Oooh! Lookie there! Little kids riding tame Triceratopses. So cute.
And aah! Feeding time at the zoo, featuring a humongous aquatic whatsis leaping up out of a park pool to gulp down the dangling carcass of a great white shark (we’re nodding at you, “Jaws”) while spectators yelp.
Then later … Dinos out of control! Panicked park visitors dive-bombed by long-beaked Pteranodons. Gun-toting security guys gobbled by a giant monstrosaur. Everybody run. And scream.
“World,” which Spielberg executive produced but did not direct (Colin Trevorrow, a relative unknown, sat in the director’s chair and shares screenplay credit with a gaggle of other writers), returns to Isla Nublar, home of the original “Jurassic.” There, the tourist attraction dreamed up by the late mogul John Hammond has, despite its fatality-strewn origins, been open for years. It’s a big draw, but attendance figures have been trending down because, as a corporate honcho observes, “no one is impressed with dinosaurs anymore.” So they’ve sunk multimillions into creating a genetic hybrid to goose attendance. Its design guiding principle is summed up thusly: “Bigger. Louder. More teeth.”
In “Jaws”-like fashion, Trevorrow teases the audience with brief partial glimpses of the monster early on. Jungle trees shake ominously. A big eye peers through the foliage.
Finally comes the Big Reveal. And seeing it, one feels a great big sense of … eh. Is that all there is? Nothing special here.
There’s nothing special about Trevorrow’s plotting either. From the original “Jurassic,” he’s cribbed the story device of putting two young siblings — two brothers this time (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) rather than the brother and sister of the original — in mortal peril by dispatching them into the park in not a Jeep, but rather a plastic rolling globe. It’s child endangerment time, as the monster plays dino soccer with the conveyance while the kids shriek.
Pratt’s character, a rough-edged park staff member, and Bryce Dallas Howard, along with Pratt’s raptor allies, must then venture forth to rescue the kids. Sound familiar?
What’s different this time is that there isn’t a single character worthy of an emotional investment by the audience. The dinosaurs’ victims are anonymous stereotypes — fat slob worker, grim-faced interchangeable security gunmen, fleeing extras. Dino chum.
A budding romance between Pratt and Howard is contrived and halfhearted. A subplot about an evil corporation seeking to weaponize the Velociraptors for the military is absurd.
And finally the dino-on-dino violence that climaxes the picture is barely impressive. Clearly, in Hammond’s words, Spielberg and company “spared no expense” on the effects. But it’s been 22 long years since the original “Jurassic” wowed audience with its then-groundbreaking CG work. Today, “no one is impressed with dinosaurs any more.”
We’ve seen it all before.