Jurassic Fallen Kingdom ✮1/2

Junk Science

By Glenn Lovell

All it takes to greenlight a new installment of a popular franchise is a semi-clever premise that dovetails nicely with the previous story and offers enough loose ends to leave fans panting for more. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” — the second installment in the “J. Park” trilogy reboot — contains reasonable (make that risible) facsimiles of both, but little else.

It also has what may be a record number of movie in-jokes, all referencing – no surprise here – iconic moments in the 1993 Steven Spielberg-Michael Crichton kickoff, such as the publicist-on-the-potty attack and T-rex vs. raptors showdown. (Extra points if you can ID a moment lifted from the first “RoboCop.”)Jurass2

Indeed, this overblown, overlong three-years-later continuation of “Jurassic World” sniffs and scratches so doggedly to establish its pedigree it could be a mutt cousin of the Spielberg blockbuster. You feel less like attacking the thing than putting it down, like the “weaponized” dino-hybrid unleashed during the dark-and-stormy-night third act that’s so overproduced it calls to mind, not only the original, but also “Kong Kong” (1933), Disney’s “Peter Pan,” Tim Burton’s expressionistic Batmans, even the lip-smackingly grisly “Hostel.”

Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are reteamed as Claire and Owen, the sniping twosome of the last installment. Claire has gone from head flak for Jurassic World, the high-tech playpen on Isla Nublar, to – wait for it — a leading dino-rights activist, and Owen, the animal behaviorist father of the raptor called Blue, has retired to his ranch in disgust after the royal cock-up that led to record class-action payouts and timely debate over the “animal rights issue of our time.”

The imminent eruption of an island volcano that would render the dino population extinct, again, forces a reunion and the expected interplay. As the action morphs from silly to cynical to preposterous, Claire repeatedly tears up and Owens turns invincible as comic book superhero who can outmaneuver burning lava, stampeding stegosauruses and whatever else the blocked screenwriters throw at him.

Director J.A. Bayona (“The Orphanage,” “The Impossible”) attempts to ride herd on this mess by affecting a tone that’s at once sentimental and over-the-top. Mawkish Marvel, anyone?

Also onboard to halt the “de-extinction” of the CG dinos is an appropriately diverse bunch that includes Daniella Pineda as smart-ass paleo-veterinarian, Justin Smith as always hysterical systems analyst, Rafe Spall as two-faced corporate baddie, and Ted Levine (“Silence of the Lambs”) as your standard-issue soldier of fortune who’s meant to remind us of Stephen Lang’s platoon leader in “Avatar.” He doesn’t.

James Cromwell replaces Richard Attenborough as the wealthy backer of the genetically engineered beasties, and newcomer Isabella Sermon provides a kid’s perspective as Cromwell’s independent-but-needy “granddaughter.”

England’s Toby Jones plays the mysterious Mr. Eversoll, who takes sinister delight in auctioning off dinos to big-game hunters, pharmaceutical companies and, of course, Russian arms dealers. Jones singularly creepy presence is bound to confuse younger viewers; he’s better suited for underground horror than mainstream fantasy.

Jeff Goldblum returns for a glorified cameo as a grayer, more sober version of his old character. He warns Congress that the DNA engineered dinos will not be domesticated. And indeed they’re poised to lay waste to Spielberg-land, aka suburbia. Do we smell sequel?

JURASSIC PARK: FALLEN KINGDOM ✮1/2 With Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ted Levine, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Justin Smith, Toby Jones, Jeff Goldblum. Directed by J.A. Bayona; scripted by Derek Connolly,  Colin Trevorrow. 128 min. PG-13 (should be R for belabored violence, disturbing content)

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