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'Sound of Thunder': Bungle in a prehistoric jungle

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A Sound of Thunder has nothing to do with sound or thunder and much more to do with Jurassic Park.

With its story, set 50 years hence, of travel back to prehistoric times, A Sound of Thunder feels like a pale imitation of a Michael Crichton novel. It is, however, based on a 1952 short story by science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury.

The cliche-laden dialogue, schlocky special effects and predictable plot are derivative; the movie is overwrought and lacks suspense.

The cast of creatures includes giant, pointy-toothed fish; vampire bats with pterodactyl wings; and rampaging dinosaurs that evolve into primates. Humans are far less impressive. Edward Burns woodenly plays a scientist who works for Time Safari, which offers expeditions to the spoiled rich, taking them back 65 million years to kill dinosaurs.

The pampered travelers must stay on a marked path and not take anything back with them to life in 2055. To underscore these rules, we hear repeated admonitions such as: "If you mess with this, you mess with the whole of evolution." The moneyed customers have their own arrogant rationales: "What's the point of being rich if you don't buy things other people can't afford?"

As obnoxious as these pseudo-adventurers are, they are topped by the company's CEO played by a silver-haired Ben Kingsley. It's hard to imagine who convinced the distinguished actor to sign on to this mess of a movie. He lures in the wealthy with his oft-repeated phrase: "We promise you the experience of a lifetime and we deliver." Too bad the movie can't make the same claim.

Of course, reckless rich people don't heed the rules, and someone does mess with nature. This causes "time waves" to roll through Chicago like tsunamis of the skies, hurtling buildings and cars about and turning residents into refugees. One can't help but think about the real and more devastating and moving disaster, Hurricane Katrina.

With this tragedy in mind, one wonders why Hollywood is so determined to churn out outlandish tales of manufactured peril when the real world is scary enough.

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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