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Thrills Beat Chills for Most Fans of ‘Lost World’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The jumping velociraptors are back, as are the gigantic T rexes, with their sharp yellow teeth and cold green eyes, stalking humans in flimsy trailers.

Joining them on a dark and drizzly isle off Costa Rica this time is a new breed of leapin’ lizards: cat-sized carnivores that attack in swarms, nibbling on a grown man as well as an unsuspecting little girl. And if all that seems remote, the biggest beastie is transported to San Diego suburbia, where he escapes--tromping down a cul-de-sac, peering into a little boy’s bedroom window.

To dinosaur aficionados such as 4-year-old David Walz of Villa Park, it couldn’t get much better than this. “I liked it all,” he said. “Tyrannosaurus rex, he’s the best. But my stomach only gets scared when the dinosaurs break through.”

The story pits the heroes--scientist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), his paleontologist girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore) and his stowaway daughter (Vanessa Lee Chester)--against the mercenary trappers (led by Pete Postlethwaite).

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For those who can catch the science in the fast-paced dialogue, there might be a few lessons on biology or ecology. Sarah claims, for instance, to have finally settled a long-standing dispute by proving that the T rexes form pair bonds for life and are protective of their offspring. (So, gee, maybe she should have known better than to take a wailing, wounded baby T rex into her trailer to set its broken leg?)

In any case, the plot serves only as the scantiest framework upon which to hang the fun special effects, which several parents found less violent than they had been led to expect. One member of the scientific team is shown--at a distance--being torn apart in a T rex tug-of-war. When dinosaurs do chomp on humans, it is usually offscreen, and we see only the dire results--blood in the river, or a Halloween fun-house body part.

It was the suspense that got to David’s older sister Jennifer Walz, 13, who had to look away after Mom and Pop T rex push the scientists’ trailer over a cliff; as it dangles precariously above the sheer drop, Sarah lays prone on the slowly cracking glass-window-turned-floor.

As in the original “Jurassic Park,” the real stars are the amazingly lifelike computer-generated dinosaurs. Some kids remained as awed by their leathery realism as when they first saw them. Ken Ford, 8, of Tustin, observed that “the velociraptors have eyes like binoculars.”

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To his friend Max Dorn, 7, of Orange, the dinosaurs seemed much stronger than the ones he had seen on the “Jurassic Park” video. “They can be really tough. I never knew they could bite a man,” he said, imitating a growling beast.

Afterward, Ken was bothered by what he thought was a loose string: Did the stun gun really anesthetize the marauding T rex at the very end of the film, or did the dart pop out? (Could director Steven Spielberg be setting us up for another sequel? If so, the friends were ready to come again.)

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AT ISSUE: To see or not to see? By sequel time, most parents have learned the common sense key to deciding whether to take children to an exciting but scary movie: Know your kid. If he’s sensitive, stay home. If not, make a day of it.

To be sure, 6-year-old Patrick McCord’s mother, Jennifer, read him the reviews before venturing out. As she suspected, he replied, “Big deal, Mom.” Patrick, of Orange, laughed with glee. “It didn’t scare him at all,” said his mother. “He doesn’t get scared.

“He has a good sense of reality and pretend. If it was about humans killing other humans, I wouldn’t take him. He knows it’s about dinosaurs, and that’s not real.”

On the other hand, Patrick said, “I think--my cousin Curtis? He would be crying the whole time.”

* FAMILY FILMGOER, Page 15

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