Audiences accustomed to routine technological breakthroughs in the movies -- "Avatar" in 2009, "Life of Pi" just this past November -- might be wondering how the rerelease of Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster "Jurassic Park" will fare in 2013. Will those computer-animated dinosaurs look as breathtaking as they did 20 years ago, even magnified in IMAX and converted to 3-D?
The answer is yes, though the magic lies less in the pixels than in the storytelling. Based on Michael Crichton's novel about scientists who clone living dinosaurs for an island theme park, "Jurassic Park" remains an absolute thrill from a Spielberg in top form: Funny, scary, fast-moving and full of just-right details. (The terrific script comes from David Koepp, of "Spider-Man," "The Paper" and many others.)
Granted, Sam Neill as our hero, the paleontologist Alan Grant, is no Indiana Jones (despite his straw hat and red neckerchief), and his two young charges (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) remain mostly generic "kids." But that's what supporting casts are for, and "Jurassic Park" has a great one. Laura Dern, as Dr. Ellie Sattler, brims with mommyish sex appeal; Richard Attenborough blends kindness and madness as park mastermind John Hammond; and two small but juicy roles go to Wayne Knight (Newman From "Seinfeld") and a pre-fame Samuel L. Jackson (playing, of all things, a grouchy IT guy).
That's not even counting Jeff Goldblum, whose Dr. Ian Malcolm is the film's most implausible and pleasurable character, a swaggering chaos theorist with the vocabulary of Carl Sagan and the wardrobe of Jim Morrison. Coming on strong with unbuttoned shirt and suggestive talk of "strange attractors," Goldblum's Malcolm chews the scenery as heartily as the dinosaurs do.
Speaking of which, the friendly brachiosaurses, vicious velociraptors and Kong-like T. Rex are all as wondrous as you remember, even if Stan Winston's animatronics have more charm than realism. Though it's too early to tell, "Jurassic Park" might once again be the most enjoyable movie of the summer.
RATING PG-13 (bloody violence)
BOTTOM LINE With or without the crystalline 3-D, this is nonstop fun from a time when Spielberg really knew how to make 'em. It's every bit as good as you remember.
Reviews of the 1993 original
Here's what four major movie critics had to say about the original "Jurassic Park" when it hit theaters on June 11, 1993:
"The movie delivers all too well on its promise to show us dinosaurs. . . . They are indeed a triumph of special-effects artistry, but the movie is lacking other qualities . . . such as a sense of awe and wonderment, and strong human story values." -- Roger Ebert, Chicago-Sun Times
"The suspense and technical wizardry are the only reason to watch 'Jurassic Park.' In a summer movie, that's more than enough, of course." -- Desson Thomson, Washington Post
"Spielberg's must-see is so wondrous at depicting things that go crunch in the night that its human characterizations and pokey exposition seem astonishingly halfhearted. . . . On a 'people' level, Park isn't 'Jaws,' but on a jolt level -- oh, yes, it is." -- Mike Clark, USA Today
" 'Jurassic Park' is a theme park of a movie with a theme park setting, designed for summer tourists who like their thrills visceral. We watch the actors as if we were all on the same Universal Studios tour tram, aware at all times that we're reacting to engineered illusions -- but reacting, nonetheless." -- Jack Mathews, Newsday