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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids who watch Jurassic Park will see lots of people -- and a few innocent animals -- being hunted and eaten by very realistic-looking dinosaurs, but there's little actual blood and gore (although one somewhat gruesome scene involves a severed arm). There's tons of suspense, many "jump" scenes, and some chases/crashes; basically, the characters -- including children -- are in near-constant peril. Expect a bit of mild swearing (as well as one "s--t") and some smoking and drinking, too. In the less intense environment of home, kids as young as 9 may be able to handle the fright factor with an adult at hand, but sensitive children should skip this one.
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What's the story?
Brought to a secluded island, three scientists discover a wondrous jungle paradise called JURASSIC PARK where dinosaurs again walk the Earth. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) warns the creator of the preserve that nature won't be corralled into a theme park, and things go terribly wrong when a tropical storm strikes and a corrupt computer programmer shuts down crucial security systems. During a night of terror, Dr. Grant (Sam Neil), Ellie (Laura Dern), and two children are pursued by an escaped Tyrannosaurus Rex and several other violent dinos (including the vicious velociraptors). After many devourings and frightening chases, a showdown ensues.
Is it any good?
This film boasts Academy Award-winning special effects, lots of frightful moments, and some good laughs. Director Steven Spielberg and his effects team deliver some stunningly realistic dinosaurs. Gone are the days of stop-motion lizards and jerking beasts of vastly varying sizes, replaced by animatronics and digital effects. The movie also has a superb soundscape; hear it with a top-notch sound system to get all the thrills. Of course, actually seeing the monster isn't always the best thing. In Jaws, Spielberg's early masterpiece, the audience didn't get to see the shark until well into the movie -- and the suspense was excruciating. That kind of storytelling elegance is missing here. And for all its technical achievements, a lack of character development weakens this thriller. Spielberg occasionally sacrifices three-dimensional characters and real human drama to the thrill of the effects.
Jurassic Park's terrifying realism is something to take seriously. In theaters, both children and adults have turned away from the screen, particularly during the young-children-in-peril sections. Viewed at home/on a smaller screen, the movie's effects are somewhat less fearful. Still, sensitive younger kids may want to avoid this one, and parents may want to watch ahead of time and gauge their children's response. It's worth noting that amid all the thrills, the movie has some very funny touches. The animated film detailing the genetic engineering of the dinosaurs resembles an elementary school educational movie from the '70s. Even funnier: "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear" glimpsed in a side mirror as a huge T. Rex chases a fleeing vehicle.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how movies like Jurassic Park blur the line between science and science fiction, sometimes giving out misinformation in the process. Since it's not really possible to clone dinosaurs, why use cloning as a plot device?
Does using headline-grabbing scientific concerns make a story more believable -- and thus more thrilling? How can you find out which parts of a story are really based in science and which are made up?
What makes Jurassic Park scary? What's the difference between horror and suspense? Which has more impact on you, and why?
- In theaters: June 11, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: April 23, 2013
- Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: STEM, Dinosaurs
- Character strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 127 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense science fiction terror
- Last updated: November 27, 2019
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