Reel Dad: The new Jurassic World is unnecessary and unexciting

Once upon a time, movie makers were satisfied when a film made money. They basked in the attention they received, the box office they collected, and they didn’t feel tempted to recreate the glory over and over again.

But times have changed. Today any film that hits a chord faces the possibility of becoming a franchise as studio heads look for fresh ways to get people to leave the comforts of the den (and the entertainment choices available at home) and go to a theater. Not since the early days of television in the 1950s, when movies went widescreen, have we observed so many attempts for audience attention.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom reaches with desperation into the archive of visual gimmicks about dinosaurs to tell its predictable story. This unnecessary sequel to a ridiculous reboot had no reason to be made. There’s nothing we care to learn about the characters we can’t remember from the previous installment nor is anything new happening with the computer-generated dinosaurs. But savvy marketer Universal knows a big movie about extinct creatures can attract audiences to the big screen as well as travelers to a theme park where this film would feel at home. It makes us wait a long time for 90 seconds of excitement.

Director J. A. Bayona tries to please all the segments of the Jurassic Park audience. For those who remember the relatively simple, and still effective original, Jeff Goldblum continues to turn cynicism into a cinema staple. This time he warns the world about letting nature take its course with the conviction of a wise man who has survived many movies. For those who thought the original lacked a heartthrob, we have Chris Pratt back on the scene from the reboot as an ultimate dinosaur confidante. And for those who wondered how Bryce Dallas Howard made it through that reboot wearing such fancy shoes, we now see her wearing toned down footwear as she pursues her new mission as the leader of a save-the-dinosaurs not-for-profit. The only thing these characters do not bring to the screen is a reason to be back on screen.

Instead of a clear narrative, the new Jurassic World gives us a series of sequences, from a prologue about how recreated dinosaurs bring out the worst in everyone, to a volcano that threatens to ruin the day, to an eccentric’s palatial estate that should keep all the creatures safe. But little makes sense, and tension is absent, until the story ultimately runs out of its own steam, unable to think of any more dinosaur clichés to shove into the proceedings. The only thing this film has in common with the still-thrilling original is the name. And Jeff Goldblum.

In the original Jurassic Park, the late Richard Attenborough, as the man who thought up the idea of an amusement park populated by dinosaurs, tried to work within the confines of what could be considered possible. His creatures thrilled because they took us back in time to the moment they ruled the land. If only movie makers could respect their source material as much. Then we could avoid films like this one.

Film Nutritional Value: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

  • Content: Medium. By this point in the series, there’s little that could be fresh in this unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary reboot.
  • Entertainment: Medium. While the original Jurassic Park celebrated the thrills of discovery, this edition feels trapped in trying to tell too many stories.
  • Message: Medium. Because the film focuses so much on its visual experience, there is less opportunity for the characters to come to life. As if they could.
  • Relevance: Medium. Any opportunity to share a film as a family is always welcome. But the movie fails to recreate the magic of the original.
  • Opportunity for Dialogue: Medium. The movie offers a fun opportunity to remember why the original film works so much better than this unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary reboot.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.” It runs 2 hours and 8 minutes. 2 1/2 Popcorn Buckets.

Beauty and the Beast: An unnecessary remake

Some movies should not be remade. Or rebooted.

As we learn with Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, no matter how much money may be spent on special effects, movies make more sense if they actually have compelling stories and plausible characters. And they are original.

But the folks at Disney — similar to the folks behind the Jurassic Park franchise — like to remake their classic films including, in the last few years, new versions of Cinderella, Pete’s Dragon, The Jungle Book and, sadly, the unnecessary remake of Beauty and the Beast.

The original — the first animated feature to be Oscar nominated for Best Picture — is a perfectly-created movie that tells a lovely story in a creative way. Its characters come to life in the imagery of Disney artists and the vocal talents of such veterans as Angela Lansbury and the late Jerry Ohrbach. And icing the cake is the magical score by Broadway veterans Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

Like the best musicals that celebrate aspiration, Beauty and the Beast explores the wonder of curiosity. Belle is a young woman who wants to experience every adventure she absorbs from literature. Her curiosity takes her to places and people beyond the remote village where she lives. But Belle is a realist. She knows how people can misunderstand the curious. And she realizes that people taunt and tease when they can’t relate to a mind filled with question. Only when her father gets lost in the forest, and she tries to save him, does Belle truly learn how, when someone hungers to experience, excitement may follow.

As beautifully as the story came to life on the animated screen, the live-action remake disappoints. From its opening moments, the magic is missing. Bill Condon, who directed Dreamgirls on screen, starts the show with the same opening number — Belle — but fails to establish the yearning Belle experiences. Instead of letting his camera move with the music, as in the animated film, Condon chooses to focus on the crowds that mock the girl. His challenges continue when he introduces the buffoon Gaston. Instead of broadening the character to counter Belle’s humanity, Condon gives the man an angry veneer that strips away the humor.

The real problems, though, begin when Belle arrives at the mysterious castle. The original magically captured the humanity of people turned into household objects thanks to the drawings of animators and the talents of actors. But the reliance on computer-generated imagery this time around makes these objects so realistic that it’s difficult to imagine they were once human. Instead of warming up to the kindness of Mrs. Potts or the humor of Lumiere we simply watch a talking teapot and a fussy candlestick. The fun disappears. Even Be Our Guest — the show stopping recreation of a big Busby Berkeley production number — becomes an over-extended exercise in computer generation that fails to ignite that sense of joy that a musical should bring.

On film, the original Beauty and the Beast felt like a show created for Broadway. Through its drawings, the movie captured the excitement of live theater even though, of course, the singing and dancing were animated.

But this unnecessary remake misses what made the first film so magical. And, when I got home, I just wanted to watch the original. One more time.

Beauty and the Beast, running 2 hours and 9 minutes, is rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images. It is available on DVD, online and on demand.

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