Hoping lightning will strike thrice, the minds behind this installment in the lucrative "Jurassic Park" franchise didn't mess with the formula hapless humans trapped on a remote island infested with intelligent dinosaurs so there's nothing fresh or surprising on view. But if the formula is what you want, this big, dumb spectacular doesn't disappoint. Having sat out the first JURASSIC sequel, paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) is back, conducting research, giving lectures and swearing that he'll never, ever return to any island teeming with genetically engineered dinosaurs. Never, that is, until he's approached by a couple, Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni), who claim they're lifelong thrill-seekers and want to spend their anniversary dinosaur watching over Isla Sorna, LOST WORLD's remote tropical setting. They'd like to hire Grant as their guide, and make an offer that's hard to resist: The generous fee will enable Grant to continue his research into raptor intelligence, specifically his astounding discovery that raptors can communicate with each another. But once the plane crash lands on the island (are you surprised?), the Kirbys reveal their true mission. Eight weeks earlier, their 12-year-old son, Eric (Trevor Morgan), went missing over the island during a disastrous parasailing adventure. Now Grant, his ambitious student, Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola), the Kirbys, and their crew have little choice but to look for Eric and a way off the island, while avoiding angry dinosaurs and piles of dino poo. Neither Steven Spielberg nor Michael Crichton showed up for this one, but at this point the movie could have written and directed itself. The bad news: Despite the contributions of talented writer-director Alexander Payne (ELECTION), the characters and script are strictly by-the-numbers and the sentimental goo that justifies the mayhem is poured on thick. Anyone who isn't first bitten in half by a giant reptile grows as a person, and a broken family is reassembled amid the running and screaming. The good news is the dinosaurs: Rather than rely solely on computer-generated images, the movie features full-scale animatronic props constructed by veteran effects whiz Stan Winston, including a terrifying, 44-foot Spinosaurus that bests a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a spectacular, no-holds-barred dino smackdown. Parents take note: While kids of all ages will want to see it, the movie is loud and occasionally brutal, and while the body count is relatively low, it's still pretty scary stuff.
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