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Kino Korner August 23, 2001
 
Matt Taibbi's Film Fun (for kids aged 9 to 11)
By Matt Taibbi Browse author
 
 

Hi there, kids? Do you like dinosaurs? Have you not just been fired by your new Dutch publishers, who will pay in this life AND the next? Then BOY do we have a movie for you. It's called Jurassic Park III, and it's a big gadget extravaganza, filled with mechanical lizards and cliche plot twists that will mildly entertain you just long enough to take your mind off your dwindling sexual drive and your seething cauldron of violent anti-social impulses!

I went to see Jurassic Park III only with great reluctance. The previous Jurassic Park movie, The Lost World, was one of the most painful film experiences of my life, surpassed only recently by Pearl Harbor, a movie that left me physically ill -- literally physically ill -- for almost a whole day after seeing it. The Lost World, I remember, was so laden with corporate plugs that you could barely see the actors. I specifically remember one scene in which the entire human cast was shrouded by a tumbling "76" spherical gas station sign. Then there was another scene, involving a Mercedes SUV which saves the day with its superior 4-wheel drive traction, that featured a full 8-second closeup on the Mercedes grille ornament. The entire eXile contingent was nearly thrown out of the Americom during the showing of that movie for howling like Negroes at the screen. I therefore had to be heavily sedated before I could watch the third movie.

But Jurassic Park III is not an outrage. It's more like an experiment in a new form of Hollywood entertainment, in which the audience is held in suspense by the process of professional film actors collecting a paycheck. The movie's lead, Sam Neill (in the role of Dr. Alan Grant), puts in the most exhilarating performance of all, reaching the very end of the film without doing any acting at all. A rumor spread on the plastic.com website that Neill's scenes were actually put together out of outtakes from the first film was quelled only with great difficulty by the Industry. His main theatrical "keys" to the role of Grant are a khaki vest and a slight furrowing of the brow, indicating an attitude of academic uncertainty, which occasionally relaxes into a wide-eyed expression of Wonder Before Nature. Neill in his safari costume reminds me a lot of Paul Winfield in the HBO dramatization of the life of Mike Tyson, who earned his check playing Don King on the strength of one single insight, just by putting on the right wig and periodically moving in front of the camera.

The plot of Jurassic Park III makes no attempt whatsoever to ease the chronic agony of the modern filmgoer. In film today there are basically three action plots: they took my badge, they killed my wife, they threatened my children. JP3 is one of the latter species, yet another movie that involves Hollywood producers throwing children into perilous situations, impelling the hero to kill or endanger hordes of innocent people in order to rescue the cute, innocent little (pick one) boy/girl who is lost in a (pick one) well/basement of a serial killer's home/dinosaur-filled jungle. It's a storied tradition that most of us have followed from Commando all the way through Not Without My Daughter, so we know what to expect from Jurassic Park III. This is particularly true given that it is a Spielberg-produced movie. Spielberg loves little children in bowl haircuts, especially when they're being chased by the latest generation of special effects from Industrial Light and Magic.

In this movie, the cute bowl-cutted child is put into danger at the beginning of the movie when his stepfather wisely takes him parasailing outside the dinosaur-infested island, called here Ingen Site B, actually Hawaii. Shockingly, they crash-land onto the beach and disappear without a trace. Cut to the California set, presented here as a Montana archeological dig site. Neill, moping around in his vest, is desperate for cash he intends to use to research -- and prove -- a theory that dinosaurs were as intelligent as human beings. We've seen this before; an audience of fat Americans, hideously constrained socially by the human technological economy that reduces them to cogs in a giant machine, is titillated by the prospect of a force Greater Than Humanity -- usually a giant meteor hurtling toward earth, somewhat less frequently a descending horde of advanced and malevolent aliens, and particularly in this case a bunch of mechanical lizards roaming a Hawaiian island.


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