There are plenty such moments of commercial overlap between the movie and its subject matter. Jurassic World may be a make-believe place, for instance, but I assume Samsung still paid hard cash to get its name prominently displayed on the park’s “Innovation Center.” Indeed, some of the cleverest moments in the movie play on the most cheesily recognizable elements of the theme-park experience: the bored, probably stoned attendants hustling kids on and off rides; the lamely comic introductory video in which a bumbling Jimmy Fallon plays himself.
But the glazed quasi-contentment of the theme-park experience gives way to something more violent and dramatic soon enough. The Indominus gets out of her enclosure (of course); the park tries to keep its initial recovery efforts quiet from the tourists (of course); and things (of course) gradually go all to hell—notably when said tourists start getting picked off by dive-bombing pteranodons.
Pinballing through the escalating dino-saster are a cast of character types so familiar that they represent brands almost as pre-sold as the movie they appear in. Two squabbling teen brothers (Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson) are sent by their parents from the winter snows of home—“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is playing, in what may or may not be a deliberate inversion of Home Alone—for a little Jurassic recreation. Instead, they sneak into a restricted part of the park and proceed to wander again and again into the jaws—often literal—of danger. But at least along the way they learn a valuable lesson about the meaning of brotherhood. (In one of the movie’s oddest twists, the idea that the boys’ parents are getting divorced is brought up precisely long enough to squeeze out a couple of tears, and is then forgotten entirely.)
In theory, the brothers are being looked after by their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), an executive at the tropical-island park off the coast of Costa Rica. But because she is a Tightly Wound Career Woman, she instead foists the kids off on a careless assistant who promptly loses track of them. Howard’s character has already achieved some notoriety thanks to a critical tweet by Joss Whedon, and she is almost exactly as awful as advertised: shrill, sexless, unable to remember her nephews’ ages, afraid not merely of flying but of flies. Fortunately, with the help of charmingly roguish raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt)—who snatches flies out of the air single-handed!—she gradually strips off her corporate couture to discover the tough, tank-topped warrior woman beneath.
One might assume that Pratt’s casting meant that his character would have some wit to him, as with his Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy. One would, alas, be mistaken. Owen is every bit as two-dimensional as the other characters in the film, who also include a tedious baddie (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wants to weaponize dinosaurs for the military; the billionaire owner of the park (Irrfan Khan), who also fancies himself a helicopter pilot; and Owen’s Nonwhite Best Friend (Omar Sy). The only actors in the film who appear to be having any fun at all are TV vets Jake Johnson (New Girl) and Lauren Lapkus (Orange Is the New Black), who receive minimal screen time as low-level park techs.