12/1/07

R052 Jurassic Park

(1993, SciFi/Adventure, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson and “Weird Al” Yankovic

This is fun, but shouldn’t we get back to fleeing the island in terror?

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Modern dinosaur clones escape confinement to run amok.

Summary:

Welcome to Jurassic Park...is what I meant to say when we arrived two hours ago.On the mist-shrouded island of Isla Nublar, armed guards and constructions workers move a large, unidentified beast from a portable cage to an enclosure. Predictably, something goes wrong. The worker nearest to the cage gets pulled inside and partially devoured before the others can free him.

Insurance rates for this operation skyrocket, causing its investors grow skittish, causing them to insist on an inspection of the facilities by world-renowned experts. To this end, the project owner John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) recruits professional paleontologist and occasional child-terrorizer Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and his domestic partner, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), to inspect and endorse his island vacation resort. Also invited are rakish mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and the investors’ weasely financial attorney. The initial friction between the inspectors comes to an abrupt halt after they arrive on the island to see the resort’s main attractions—actual, living dinosaurs.

After a bit of theme park foolishness, Grant et al. break in to the cloning facility to see where the dinosaurs come from. Dinosaur blood taken from ancient mosquitoes preserved in amber has been used to obtain the necessary DNA to genetically engineer the specimens of Jurassic Park. At lunch, they discuss what they’ve seen. The lawyer is sold by the presence of living dinosaurs alone (and the potential financial gain from same) but the others aren’t quite so sure that mixing ancient reptiles and humans is such a good idea. Hammond promises them that the automated park tour will allay all their concerns. To drive home his point about the park’s safety, his grandchildren Lex (short for Alexis) and Tim will join them.

The inspectors and children board a pair of electric jeeps to tour the enclosures. This starts out boringly enough, as the Tyrannosaur and Dilophosaurus hide from the sight-seers. The third enclosure has a sick Triceratops; Grant and Sattler get out to see if they can figure out what’s wrong with it. They can’t, and a tropical storm begins, so Sattler stays with the park rangers to help with the Triceratops while the others troop back to their electric cars.

They're on a collision course with death, and wackiness.Back at the main building, Hammond sits in the control room with his chief engineer Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) and programmer Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight). Nedry has been offered a huge sum of money by a rival corporation to steal some dinosaur embryos for them, so he shuts down the security programs to sneak a few out to the docks. Only he gets lost, and since he’s taken too long, the more aggressive dinosaurs begin to escape. One of them, the Dilophosaurus, catches and eats him.

With security shut down, the electric cars have stopped, forcing Grant, Malcolm, the lawyer, and the kids to wait for rescue. Also, the electric fence is off, allowing the T-Rex to escape. Grant goes to rescue the kids while Malcolm leads the T-Rex astray with a flare. By the time Sattler and the game warden Muldoon arrive to look for them, they discover only the wounded Malcolm and the half-eaten lawyer, but footprints tell them that Grant and the kids have escaped into the jungle. They return to the main resort to wait for morning and try to fix the security system.

Arnold finally gives up and decides to reboot the system completely, over Muldoon’s objections that this would leave them momentarily without even the half-security they already have. The reboot works, but in order to complete the process, Arnold must go flip some switches in a shed across the compound. The others hide in a bunker while he goes to do this. Then, when he does not return, Sattler and Muldoon decide to make the attempt.

Partway across the compound, Muldoon realizes that the Velociraptors have escaped and are hunting them. He stays to fend them off while Sattler makes it to the shed and finishes the reboot. She discovers a raptor in the shed, and then severed bits of Arnold. She locks the raptor inside and flees while the raptors outside are occupied devouring Muldoon.

Meanwhile, Grant and the kids have spent the night in a tree, been sneezed on by Brachiosaurs, and run with a herd of Gallimimus in their efforts to escape to the main building. After Sattler’s reboot of security half-fries Tim while climbing over an electric fence, Grant carries him into the deserted banquet hall and leaves them while he goes to look for the others.

He finds Sattler instead, who explains about the raptors. They go back for the kids, who have been playing hide and seek with said raptors in the resort kitchen. The resulting chase leads to the control room where Lex fixes the phones, allowing Hammond to call for help. The raptors break in again, forcing everyone up into the duct work and then into the entrance hall. T-Rex appears to fight the raptors, allowing them to escape. As the survivors make their getaway, Grant tells Hammond that he’s decided not to endorse the park.

Thoughts:

Irony noted.  Thank you.Here’s another deservedly iconic film from Stephen Spielberg. When Jurassic Park came out, a lot of critics took it to task for having characters with quirks instead of personalities, but I don’t really see this as a problem. Surely he made his movie this way on purpose. A perusal of Spielberg’s later, more socially responsible films reveals that he knows perfectly well how to make gut-wrenching character dramas. Jurassic Park is a silly dinosaur adventure movie, not hellish vision of man against nature. Yes, it’s broadly played, heavy on the “Tampered in God’s Domain” speeches, and overfond of Deus Ex Machina, but I defy anyone to name another dinosaur movie this enjoyable. Now, the sequels are another matter entirely…

“Weird Al” Yankovic follows up his first mockery of this film (the 1993 parody of MacArthur Park) by joining Mike for the commentary track. This works well, but not as well as one might hope, probably because Weird Al’s usual sense of humor, though quite funny, is far more straightforward than Mike’s. Every now and then I was slightly jarred to hear him say something overly obscure or complicated; you can just tell that Mike wrote it for him. On the other hand, he occasionally shrills out an insult in his trademark whine that will make you bust a gut laughing. During explanation of how dinosaurs are cloned, Al says, “For kicks, we also gave each one a murder’s brain.” When the grandchildren arrive, Mike says, “Spielberg’s gonna have these kids in peril within fifteen minutes.” Later, as a raptor makes a villainous face at the camera, Al says, “Why not give the thing a handlebar mustache it can twirl?” Also included is a pair of references to Al’s songs, such as Al’s, “Jurassic Park in the daytime? Not so frightening,” and Mike referring to the programmer as, “White and Nedry.” It’s a great movie and a hilarious if slightly uneven Rifftrax; definitely worthy of your time.