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Jurassic Park: Collector's Edition

Trying to critically parse Jurassic Park is a bit like trying to delve into the hidden subtext of Disneyland's "Country Bear Jamboree." Both entertainments provide fun, technically masterful rides, but both also tend to fall apart under scrutiny — and that scrutiny really only succeeds in ruining everybody's fun, like sniffing at a Ray Harryhausen "Sinbad" movie for having less-than-stellar acting and a formless plot. What's the damned point? Thankfully, the DVD medium finally provides a way through the thicket. Jurassic Park (along with The Lost World) is finally on DVD, and in many respects these are the Spielberg discs we've been waiting for since April 1997: They supplement the strengths of the two films (which are, alas, mostly technical) with tons of frequently ginchy, ILM-hagiographic extras, while allowing you to skip, with the touch of a button, all the poopy parts. Zap — Laura Dern's performance now consists solely of screaming reaction shots as she's menaced by the fruits of effects-house genius! Zap — Vanessa Lee Chester's kid-stowaway character no longer ruins a tense chase sequence by doing parallel-bars gymnastics (!) near its climax! The stories, quickly: In Jurassic Park, a semi-delusional Walt Disney type (Attenborough) clones dinosaurs from fossil DNA, then builds an amusement-park island to showcase them. Three scientists (Sam Neill, Dern, Jeff Goldblum) a lawyer (Donald Gennaro) and two "cute" moppets (Arianna Richards, Joseph Mazello) visit the island. The park is sabotaged by a disgruntled employee (TV's Newman, Wayne Knight). Much dino stomping and chaos ensues. In The Lost World, we discover there's a second island of dinosaurs — and it's converged upon by a pack of hunters (led by Pete Postlethwaite and corporate weasel Arliss Howard) and a pack of scientists and greenies (Goldblum, Chester, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, "The West Wing"'s Richard Schiff). More, arguably better dino stomping and chaos ensues — culminating in a tyrannosaurus visit to San Diego. Like many of you, in 1993 this writer exited a theater showing Jurassic Park and sang that film's praises; also like many of you, in 1997 I exited a theater showing The Lost World and railed against the heavens that Spielberg could direct such a gormless sequel. However, in reviewing these discs I was shocked to discover that the more charitable expectations of home video, combined with the now-ubiquitous existence of Jurassic-caliber special effects, have worn surprisingly well on The Lost World and surprisingly thin on Jurassic Park — to the degree that I'm fairly confident that Lost World will be getting quite a bit more play in my collection. These being Spielberg discs, there are no director commentaries, and sadly there are no isolated scores. But what is here is a damned sight more substantial that what's found on any other Spielberg DVD — with the possible exception of the Jaws 25th Anniversary release — including a 50-minute "making-of" doc, a look at Phil Tippet's animatics, lots of storyboards and concept art, trailers for Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Jurassic Park III, a dinosaur encyclopedia, and more. Keep-case.
—Alexandra DuPont

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