Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by:Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Starring: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan
Released: August 30, 2001
Grade: B-

Sequels make a lot of money but it’s a golden rule that success isn’t necessarily correlated with quality.  Jurassic Park 3 allows Sam Neill to reprise his role as Dr. Alan Grant (Neill), a chance he didn’t get in the first sequel.  With the horrors of Jurassic Park behind him, Alan continues his tireless research and is more than happy to studying million year old fossils rather than the real thing.

When couple Paul and Amanda Kirby (Macy & Leoni) present Alan with a proposition, another nightmare is about to begin.  They offer to make a sizeable donation to his research if he’ll agree to be their tour guide as they charter a flight over the dinosaur inhabited island of Isla Sorna for their wedding anniversary.

An ulterior motive is exposed when the Kirbys break Cuban airspace laws and against Alan’s strong demands, set down on the island.  The plane is destroyed by a large carnivore and after managing to elude his hungry jaws, they’re left stranded with little hope.  It transpires that the Kirbys’ son, Erik (Morgan), and his step-father crashed a parasail on the island eight weeks ago and haven’t been heard from since.  Paul and Amanda have come to the island in a last ditched chance to find their son...

It’s a pretty flimsy screenplay but the cast do hold it together.  There’s some great improvisation between Leoni and Macy and 12-year-old Trevor Morgan shows how talented some youngsters are.  Sam Neill has one too many close ups and one too many tacky lines (such as “you know we’re probably not going to get off this island alive”) but some lightheartness on his part was a nice touch.

The one word I could use to sum up the film is - short.  Disregarding the opening credits, there’s only 80 minutes of film and for a $100m budget, that’s poor.  The ending is terribly weak and I’m sure a longer alternative was left on the cutting room floor.  Most cinemagoers will be surprised by the abrupt finale.

I’ve seen nothing but media reports talking about how realistic the visual effects are and how vivid the dinosaurs seem.  It’s a statement that can’t be faulted but hell, I don’t pay to just see good visual effects - I pay to see a movie and a movie includes a story.  What odds for Jurassic Park 4?