Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, June 22nd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It, Megan Basham with a review of the new film Jurassic World.

MEGAN BASHAM, ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR: In “Sunset Boulevard,” Norah Desmond famously quipped, “I’m big, it’s the pictures that got small.” These days, you’d have to argue the opposite. As movies have grown into mammoth, multi-faceted universes of blockbusters, actors have seemed to dwindle in importance. We have more celebrities than ever, but not many with the bankability to draw crowds when they aren’t wearing a superhero costume.

One exception is Chris Pratt. Like Tom Cruise and Clark Gable before him, Pratt is one of those rare performers who possesses a charismatic appeal that’s only partly related to good looks. In fact he’s one of the very few actors under 40 today who could credibly claim the title “movie star.”

AUDIO: So, what, are you dating an accountant now? A ventriloquist? You love a dummy. This is not why we’re here.

Since his breakthrough in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” not one of Pratt’s films has failed to earn big bucks. Even the critically maligned—but Basham-approved—“Passengers” earned a healthy profit.

And I’d argue that it was Pratt’s name above the title as much as Denzel Washington’s that made 2016’s “Magnificent Seven” remake a success.

So given all this, here’s the big question about “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” hitting theaters this weekend. Why did director J.A. Bayona apparently forget what an asset he had in Pratt?

AUDIO: If I don’t make it back, remember you’re the one who made me come here.

2015’s “Jurassic World,” the first reboot of the 90s franchise, blew audiences out of the water not just with the natural popcorn-munching lure of man-eating dinosaurs, but also with a classic movie storyline. This included the old-school chemistry between Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. There was a feeling of, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” Except in that case, they had, complete with a Golden-Age Hollywood style hero.

AUDIO: Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur…and then you see the first one alive.

Here, though, almost all the fun that isn’t dependent on CGI technology is brushed aside to make room for creatures more like horror movie monsters than wild animals.

AUDIO: Clare it’s the T-Rex, it’s the T-Rex. Stop! It’s not the T-Rex.

The story starts out well enough, with Jeff Goldblum’s beloved professor Ian Malcolm catching Congress up on the state of things. It seems God has offered humanity a solution to the Jurassic problem scientists cooked up in a DNA lab.

An active volcano is about to erupt on the Isle of Nublar that will put an end to all the prehistoric trouble. These scenes are effectively tragic, and we shed some tears for the herbivores at least, but the politicians, for once, respond sensibly and decide to let nature take its course. Until a team led by Clare undertakes a black ops mission to rescue some of the creatures and move them to a specialized sanctuary.

AUDIO: How many can you save? 11 species…We thought you might know someone who could help. A rescue op? What could go wrong…

From there, the movie hits beats far too similar to its predecessor. There are double crosses and realizations that someone is trying to weaponize the dinos. Why this should come as a surprise to characters that just went through this a few years ago is anyone’s guess.

Even more confusing is why someone decided it was a good idea to cram the dinosaurs into what essentially amounts to a haunted house. It robs them of their grand, earth-shaking charisma.

But the plot repetition wouldn’t be the worst crime if it were executed well. Sadly, it isn’t. The pacing is dismal, squashing all interest in the human storylines and robbing Pratt of the witty one-liners that made the last film such good summer fun.

It’s a shame because Pratt, who also happens to be a professing Christian, is so charming. You may have heard he even managed to give a speech at the MTV movie awards that contained the crux of the gospel. Granted, it was sandwiched in-between a couple juvenile potty jokes, but when on Mars Hill…

AUDIO: God is real, God loves you, God wants the best for you…Number nine, nobody is perfect…

That, my friends, is star power.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.

(Universal Pictures via AP) This image released by Universal Pictures shows Chris Pratt in a scene from the upcoming “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”

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