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Movie review

‘Jurassic World’ treads largely familiar ground

“Bigger. Louder. More teeth.” According to Mr. Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the billionaire theme park owner in “Jurassic World,” that’s what visitors want from their dinosaurs. It serves as a somewhat desperate mission statement for the movie as well. A belated third sequel to the 1993 pop classic “Jurassic Park” — following the effective “The Lost World” (1997) and the thoroughly unnecessary “Jurassic Park III” (2001) — “Jurassic World” is a roadworthy retread, a summer blockbuster that has more than its share of absurdities and bald patches but gets by anyway because dinosaurs.

We’re certainly not here for the people. The script, by the usual committee of writers, gives us characters who are generic stand-ins for types created earlier in the series. In the case of Chris Pratt, who plays Owen Grady, a dashing, resourceful ex-Navy hero dude who swaggers and cracks wise like Harrison Ford v. 5.0, this is a particular waste. Pratt gives his lines a pleasurable snap and he’s fun to be around, but last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” made much better use of his slacker derring-do.


And let’s not even talk about Bryce Dallas Howard, who gives a numb performance in the cardboard role of Claire, operations manager for the Jurassic World park on Isla Nublar off the coast of Costa Rica. A control freak who learns to let her hair down and shuck her tight white power jacket over the course of the action, Claire’s another one of those sexless movie career women who’s made to see the error of her unreproductive ways and enjoy the company of kids.

Said kids being her nephews, jaded early Bieber lookalike Zach (Nick Robinson) and science-geek little brother Gray (Ty Simpkins). The two have been shipped to Jurassic World while their parents (Judy Greer and Andy Buckley) hash out their separation, and they’re just in time for things to go kerblooey. The park’s Mad Biologist department, overseen by Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, the lone holdover from the earlier movies), has been playing mix-and-match with DNA and has come up with Indominus Rex, a massive, intelligent carnivore that apparently combines the genes of a T. Rex, a smarter than average pit bull, and an angry online commenter. It gets loose, obviously. Why make the movie otherwise?


As I. Rex chomps its way from the wilds of the island’s north toward the 20,000 happy park visitors in the south, flossing its teeth with assorted security personnel, Owen swings into action to save the day. Over in this corner is a rip-snorting military/corporate honcho (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wants to use the velociraptors that Owen has been training (sort of) as reptilian shock troops for US engagements overseas. Over in the other corner are Zach and Gray, marooned in a plexiglass gyrosphere with the big bad dinosaur giving them the hairless eyeball, just as T. Rex did in the jeep scene in “Jurassic Park.” In general, “Jurassic World” relies on old tricks with new trimmings, hoping we’ll see them as homages rather than evidence of tired thinking.

The movie does a lot of things wrong. “Good” dinosaurs? Really? The thrill of the original movie was the alien pitilessness of a creature that just wanted to eat you, no questions asked. Gaffes abound: The boys plunge over a waterfall and come up with a dry box of matches a scene later, or they quickly repair an ancient park jeep because they learned how in shop class, I guess. Having established that Claire is wearing unwieldy high heels, couldn’t the writers have sent her to her office for a decent pair of flats before she runs the equivalent of a jungle marathon? And, honestly, “Jurassic World” is a visual mess, with a post-production 3-D rinse that washes out the colors and makes everything look cheap. It’s based on a movie that came out 22 years ago but it doesn’t have to look that way.


But here’s what’s right: Beasties — lots of them. A sequence in which a squadron of pterodactyls gets loose and buzz-bombs the panicked park visitors; it’s the winged-monkey scene from “The Wizard of Oz” writ large. Chases that work on your reptile brain even as your higher functions know better. Jake Johnson (from TV’s “New Girl”) as a sardonic button-pusher in command central and Lauren Lapkus (from Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”) as his flummoxed colleague. A ridiculous, and ridiculously fun, climactic dino-fight that flatters every Saturday afternoon Japanese monster movie memory you may have.

“Jurassic World” is still executive producer Steven Spielberg’s baby, but the director is Colin Trevorrow, hand-picked by Spielberg after making one feature, the quite excellent and quite low-budget “Safety Not Guaranteed” (2012). Trevorrow puts the blockbuster pieces together with professionalism and a mind to protecting the franchise; “Jurassic World” will make pots of money and momentarily please audiences, who will digest it as if it were a slow-moving brachiosaurus and move on. But it’s a timid piece of work from a good filmmaker who may not have been ready for the job. It needs — how to put this? — more teeth.


Ty Burr can be reached at ty.burr@globe.com.

An earlier version of this story stated that “Orange is the New Black” was on HBO. It is on Netflix.