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JURASSIC PARK

From the June 11, 1993, Deseret News

JURASSIC PARK — Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity).

There's no question that "Jurassic Park" is the roller coaster movie ride of the summer, and if you can take it strictly on its own thrills-and-spills, popcorn-movie terms, you won't be disappointed.

Some of director Steven Spielberg's past scary and thrilling pictures have contained more substance, depth and character development — "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Jaws," just to name three. But let's face it, it's been too long since we've had a ripsnorting, hold-onto-your-hats, awe-inspiring big-screen yarn, Spielberg-style.

And "Jurassic Park" delivers the goods.

Based on Michael Crichton's best-selling, cautionary "what if" novel, with some substantial changes, the film still manages to keep intact many of the book's major set-pieces, along with its most memorable characters — the tyrannical T-Rex and the cunning, predatory velociraptors.

The stunning special effects used to bring these creatures — and others — to life, a sophisticated blend of models, stop-action animation and computer graphics, provide the movie's "ooh" and "ahh" factor. And there seems little doubt that moviegoers will want to return a time or two to observe them more closely.

For the uninitiated, the story has an eccentric gazillionaire (Richard Attenborough) — much more benign here than the book's evil character — inviting a small group of people to visit his island near Costa Rica, which houses an unusual amusement park and zoo.

His guests include a lawyer (Martin Ferrero) who represents concerned investors, a mathematician (Jeff Goldblum, with all the best lines) who theorizes the park will fail because man cannot control nature, a pair of paleontologists (Sam Neill, Laura Dern) who have been digging up dinosaur bones in Montana, and Attenborough's own young grandchildren (Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello).

Neill and Dern don't know that the park is a haven for genetically engineered dinosaurs, created through the use of DNA extracted from an ancient mosquito found encased in amber. And when they see the park's prime exhibits, they are at first thrilled and enthusiastic.

Eventually, however, Murphy's Law goes into force when a computer saboteur (Wayne Knight) brings down the park's safety system and the most dangerous dinos run amok. Most of the rest of the film has Neill, who doesn't care for children, finding himself saddled with Richards and Mazzello as they try to get back to the park's headquarters.

Once this element kicks into gear, the human stories more or less go by the wayside to make way for high tension. The ride begins and the suspense doesn't let up until the end of the final reel.

This lack of depth does hurt the picture to some degree, and Knight's portrayal of a slobbish jerk is too cartoony to blend with the more subdued performances offered by the rest of the cast. And though the young girl here is not as obnoxious as her character in the book, she still does a bit too much screaming.

Still, for all its flaws, how can you complain when a movie offers this many genuine thrills? And the Oscars for special effects may as well be handed out now — how can anyone top this incredible animal act?

"Jurassic Park" is rated PG-13 for violence, some gore (a severed arm, the remains of a cow and a goat) and some profanity and vulgarity. And it is definitely not for young children.