[Review] “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous” Surprises with Thrilling Family-Friendly Intro to Franchise

Sure, the entire live-action Jurassic Park franchise is PG-13, but its sequences of dinosaur thrills and kills might be a bit too intense for younger audiences. Enter Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, a DreamWorks animated spinoff set during the events of Jurassic World. The result is a zippy Netflix series that doesn’t skimp on the thrills and dinosaur fun, yet imbues a surprising emotional complexity as well.

The story follows Darius (Paul-Mikél Williams), Brooklyn (Jenna Ortega), Kenji (Ryan Potter), Sammy (Raini Rodriguez), Ben (Sean Giambrone), and Yazmina (Kausar Mohammed) as the first young teens to test out Jurassic World’s newest attraction, Camp Cretaceous. These kids, coming from all over, couldn’t be further apart in personality and background. Darius, the central protagonist, is the definitive dinosaur aficionado. Kenji is the rich kid; Brooklyn the social media influencer tethered to her phone; Ben was forced into the experience by parents that wanted him to branch out, and so forth. Their clashing personalities add conflict and interest to liven up the narrative as the dinosaurs start to mutiny on the island.

If you’ve seen Jurassic World, then you know things will far apart rather quickly. Poor Counselors Roxie (Jameela Jamil) and Dave (Glen Powell) can’t keep up.

That these characters are given depth counterbalances the basicness in their design; let’s face it, they look generic. To be fair, the main attraction in this franchise is the dinosaurs, and they present the greatest hits here. Every single dinosaur from the franchise gets a moment to shine or terrify. Look for the baddies, like Indominus Rex, to present a recurring problem for the kids, or even the unnerving Mosasaurus to ruin camp activities. Most of all, look for new dinosaur Bumpy to capture your heart and immediately send you to stores for all the merchandise.

The inaugural season is a brisk run of eight 30-minute episodes, meaning it takes no time at all to establish the kids and the lush Isla Nublar before plummeting them into team-building exercises through dinosaur encounters and hell breaking loose. It’s an engaging story full of dramatic stakes, but in its attempt to leave the door open for continuation, the season ends with a quiet whimper. The kind of abrupt stall that leaves you asking, “that’s it?”

Still, for major fans of the franchise or those with young dinosaur lovers in their lives, Camp Cretaceous offers an unexpected entry point that captures the best parts of the franchise. There’s a depth here that makes this enjoyable for all ages. Not just in the danger for the characters but in the brushes with adult themes. There are earnest brushes with profound loss and even corporate sabotage thrown into the mix. It’s the perfect Amblin mix of funny, touching, and daring that makes this an easily digestible and enjoyable three-hour binge trip to Isla Nublar. The character designs might not wow, but the voice cast more than compensates for that. Even if season one comes grinding to a halt, “Camp Cretaceous” still leaves you clamoring for more dino entertainment.

More importantly, when can we see more Bumpy?

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous releases on Netflix on September 18, 2020.

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