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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, BD Wong, Daniel Stisen, Daniella Pineda, Geraldine Chaplin, James Cromwell, Jeff Goldblum, Justice Smith, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones
DIRECTED BY
J.A. Bayona
SCREENPLAY
Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, Michael Crichton (Characters)
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
118 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Universal Pictures
OFFICIAL WEBSITE

 "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," Indeed.  
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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom contains a valuable lesson for former sitcom star turned mega-movie semi-hunk Chris Pratt. 

You can't always get by on being Chris Pratt. 

Let's be honest. America loves Chris Pratt. While Pratt can act, the truth is that a good majority of Pratt's roles on the way to superstardom have involved Pratt seemingly being histrionic and overly exaggerated variations of himself. 

Eventually, acting requires more than the Prattitude. 

In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Pratt's inherent likability and charisma aren't nearly enough to salvage a film that never finds a coherent tone, a story worth following nor characters worth giving a damn about. The fifth film in the Jurassic series and the second film in a planned trilogy, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom flails about for a good majority of its 118-minute running time vacillating between B-movie styled action sequences and contrived stupidity that can't seem to decide if it wants to surrender to its contrivances or stupidity. 

While it may sound like I'm not a Pratt fan, quite the opposite is true. Beyond being an infinitely likable guy, Pratt is also an immensely talented one, at least within a certain range, and Pratt actually seems to know his limits for the most part. Even with all its issues, Pratt is actually one of the true highlights of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom even if his charisma is a little less appealing, his machismo possessing of a little less swagger, and his guy next door charm giving way to the harsh reality that we all know now that Pratt lives on a part of the street we ain't never gonna' be moving to. 

When the original Jurassic Park opened up in 1993, it had that something special and Richard Attenborough was an utterly captivating visionary whose misguided but mostly well meaning actions were brought vividly to life amidst the special effects that are downright cartoonish compared to available technology now 25 years later. While many people thought 2015's Pratt starrer Jurassic World was godawful, the truth is I rather enjoyed it for the escapist popcorn flick that it never stopped trying to be even amongst so many mind-numbingly awful directorial decisions that it's amazing it worked at all.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will, to some, be a more successful film than its predecessor precisely because it has a little more fun, gets a little more ludicrous and, at least during the first half, doesn't take itself too seriously. Director J.A. Bayona directs the film with a slightly retro vibe, a B-movie feeling that may seem awkward given the fact we all know this is a mega-budgeted film and nothing close to a B-movie. 

To their credit, Trevorrow, who directed Jurassic World, and Derek Connolly, who co-wrote it, have obviously taken heed of that film's numerous complaints about the sexist treatment of Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire, whose ridiculously inappropriate high heels are gone and whose character has done a major, if not entirely believable, shift into the land of kick-assery. 

To be sure, the ethical questions that have long hovered around the Jurassic universe, though five films in it seems readily apparent that no one is particularly concerned with them and there isn't a sole in this universe who seems to learn from their mistakes. The film starts off back on Isla Nublar, the island where Jurassic World had once stood and where dinosaurs now fend for themselves devoid of human contact. This remains true until the island's long dormant volcano begins to show signs of life, an action that leads to our co-leads mounting a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from what is known would be an extinction-level event. Pratt's Owen is determined to find the long lost Blue, his beloved lead raptor, while Claire herself has become a rather radical dinosaur protection activist. 

Of course, this entire setting means you'll have ample shots of our two stars frantically running from both dinosaurs and molten lava, their escape from which, in addition to being inevitable, leads them largely into the film's more preposterous and immensely unsatisfying second half involving a move to a secluded mansion in California. 

Boy, and we thought the Clampetts were weird. 

Of course, it's not surprising that our two heroes will discover they've been had by powerful influences both dark and sinister and determined to use these dinosaurs for their own good until a curious kid, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), starts meddling and her father, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who was involved in developing the original park, gets involved along with his assistant (Rafe Spall) and Maisie's governess, played by a criminally under-utilized Geraldine Chaplin. 

Of course, it's also not surprising that Owen and Claire ain't gonna' be havin' that. 

Pratt is fine here, but his guy next door/teddy bear shtick is starting to wear a bit thin and there's not enough substance here to keep it all interesting. It's made even worse by the fact that he has almost no chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard's Clarire and doesn't have quite the range that he can actually fake it. Howard's character, on the other hand, is amped up considerably in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and despite being horribly cliche'd she is reasonably fun here. The villains are mostly one note, though Toby Jones is a deliciously diabolical exception. In case you're wondering, Toby Jones, an experienced stage actor, is precisely the type of actor who can take a one-note role and mine it for gold. 

The odds are pretty strong that if you are one of the folks who enjoyed Jurassic World, that Fallen Kingdom will likely prove to be more than sufficient to justify a couple hours of your time. It's not so much that I hated the film - it's that the film disappointed me and my modest thumbs down comes with the acute awareness that I'm someone who sees far more films than the average human being on a regular basis. What feels stale for me? It may prove to be exciting enough for you.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 

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