Matthew Lickona noon, April 29
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Because it's a sequel, there is understandably less time set aside for awe-struck wonder and a lot more of getting down to business: namely, dinosaurs chomping and stomping on humans. Jeff Goldblum, who is granted almost godlike stature in his trompe l'oeil reintroduction on screen, pretty well synopsizes the scenario in a single made-for-quotation line: "Ooh, ahh -- that's how it always starts, but then, later, there's running and screaming" -- with the qualification, however, that there is really very little ooh-ahh and a very large amount of running and screaming. More or less exactly what you expect -- plus a bonus appearance (King Kong-like) of the rampaging T-rex in the streets of San Diego. There are P.C. nods to feminists (the gloriously tressed Julianne Moore as Goldblum's paleontologist girlfriend: paleontologist first, please note) and to environmentalists (the blandly hunkish Vince Vaughn as an Earth First commando); and the casting of Goldblum's stowaway daughter as a dark-chocolate African-American (Vanessa Lee Chester, a girl of sitcommy ebullience) is a simple matter of two-birds-with-one-stone: the Romper Room bird, that is, and the Rainbow Coalition bird. The customarily gushing, gurgling Spielbergian sentimentality spreads, naturally, to the dinosaurs themselves -- an endangered species par excellence. (Any sort of screen figure who could drum up a billion dollars in business for Spielberg is bound to have melted a chamber or two of his calculating heart.) In the way of villains, meanwhile, we have Great White Hunter types (Bambi meets Godzilla, indeed) and greedy unprincipled capitalists (talk about hypocrisy!), who tend to speak with foreign accents and are thus unequally protected under the Bill of Rights. The ready response to any critical charge of "manipulativeness" is of course that all art is manipulative, so we must be extra careful to make clear that Spielberg's art is heavy-handedly, clodhoppingly, transparently, and tritely manipulative. With Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Peter Stormare. 1997.