Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen




For, Friday, June 26, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: With movie theaters playing primarily older movies for a few weeks, it’s time to take a look back at one that’s continuing at several Megaplex Theaters, and which, some 27 years ago, kicked off a franchise that remains ongoing (‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ is scheduled for next year). In the Salt Lake Valley you can find ‘Jurassic Park’ at the Gateway in Salt Lake City, the District in South Jordan, the Jordan Commons in Sandy and the Cottonwood in Holladay. In my review, published in tbe Deseret News on June 11, 1993, I suggest that the film has a huge ‘Wow’ factor, and the special-effects team did take home Oscars — but with today’s advanced CGI in every other film and Hollywood’s deluge of special effects-driven comic book heroics, that aspect may be lost to time. At the end of the write-up, I say that this film is definitely not for young children. Is that still the case or have parents given up on monitoring what their kids see these days?

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 rip-snorting, 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.


From left, Laura Dern, Joseph Mazzello, Sam Neill, 'Jurassic Park' (1993)

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 effect 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.


    Steven Spielberg, on the set of 'Jurassic Park' in 1992.

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 cartooney 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, despite a few 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.