Jurassic Park III
dir. Joe Johnston
Now playing at various theaters.

Certain FIlms are as edifying as a good meal, while others offer the base pleasures of a midnight snack. Jurassic Park III is more like a resonant belch--it's brief, socially unacceptable, and feels great.

Unlike its two predecessors, which were directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Michael Crichton, JPIII, as imagined by Joe Johnston, is light on the specious philosophy. A few references are made to the ramifications of scientists playing God by genetically engineering the rebirth of an extinct species, but the filmmakers are shrewd enough to realize that no one's here to debate imaginary ethics. We want dinosaurs.

After 20 minutes of expository build-up--Sam Neill is back as the skeptical paleontologist hero, lured into going to the dinosaur island by some "rich adventurers" (who are actually middle-class Ohioans looking for their son)--we get 'em. And once again, they rule the planet.

Once the monsters show up, roaring and chomping and smashing people and each other, this movie, which is neither smart nor dumb (but a bit of both), makes its worth known. The actors, especially Neill, William H. Macy, and Téa Leoni (with a memorable bit part by Michael Jeter), are game to throw their considerable talents behind a cinematic enterprise that requires only a commitment to running, screaming, and looking first anxious, then terrified: They dive into the dizziness and dinosaur shit, and the director, for his part, rides 'em hard and puts 'em away (literally) wet after almost exactly 90 minutes.

Johnston makes the much-appreciated decision to dispatch with the Tyrannosaurus rex (the weakest part of the first two movies, both for its poor design and its unconvincing tyranny) early on, the better to raise the dino stakes with something called a spinosaurus something-or-other, and the long awaited pteranodon, a more vicious variant of the pterodactyl. The script, partially written by the team responsible for Election, is lean, tidy, and best of all, negligible--these screenwriters know better than to let the plot obscure the action, and the result is probably the best of the three Jurassic Park films.