Spielberg turns loose reptilian predators on a vulnerable mom

SUSAN REIMER

July 27, 1993|By SUSAN REIMER

To all you mothers who are starting to bend under the summerlong badgering from children too young to see Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park," let me offer this advice.

Don't go.

Send the kids if you want. But don't you go.

The kid grapevine has transmitted every detail of "Jurassic Park," and by now the movie has lost its sting for the borderline bunch -- the 8- and 9-year-olds you weren't sure should see it. So send them if you want. But that doesn't mean you have to go.

Trust me. You'll hate it.

I take in these kinds of movies from time to time, not so much to pre-screen them for my children, but so that I can continue to be part of the cultural mainstream in some way. I'm so out of it in so many areas, I like at least to catch the movie everyone is talking about. I don't enjoy it, but I go.

I went to see "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" for the same reason.

Both movies were awful for me. I sucked in my breath and hid my eyes (during some really tough moments in "Jurassic Park" I fled the theater). I came out feeling like I'd ridden a bad amusement park ride.

You know why I felt like this, don't you? You've felt this same unspeakable terror, haven't you? Like a scream that's stuck in your throat.

It was the same scream that reverberated somewhere inside me when my toddler daughter, while tooling around the kitchen, suddenly propelled herself down the cellar steps in one of those walkers that they are now thinking about banning.

You've had that same feeling, haven't you? Like when you have that dream where you suddenly realize you left the kids at the mall and you are stuck in traffic and you can't get to them.

Sickeningly familiar, isn't it?

When a woman has children, something happens to her sensibilities. She gets more of them, I think. Or the ones she has get more vivid. It is the equivalent of getting cable for your emotions.

You simply can't watch horrible stuff without projecting your children into it. Once you have children, all children are your children.

Which brings me back to "Jurassic Park." What Steven Spielberg has done -- Steven Spielberg, doting father of four children under 8 -- is put two young children in mortal peril for two solid hours. This is a dad making this movie?

Granted, the kids live. But this is no vulnerable and lonely Henry Thomas palling around with the wise and wonderful ET. What we have here are two children trapped in a car while a savage T-Rex flips it around with his huge reptilian snout trying to dislodge and eat them.

That's how it starts. And, except for warm moment when a brachiosaurus sneezes on the kids, these children are in unspeakable danger for the entire movie. It is exhausting in its intensity and its tension. Spielberg doesn't let up.

And he isn't just scaring us mothers of young children with inspired special effects and timely editing, he is reaching inside us to expose our darkest fear: My children are lost in the woods, and monsters are trying to eat them.

"Terminator 2" repelled me for the same reason: I am locked in a mental institution, perfectly sane but unable to get to my son, who is being hunted by forces from the future.

This is not entertainment.

My husband loved "Jurassic Park." But I don't think men are affected by childbirth in quite the same way -- I am speaking cinematically here -- and that may explain how Spielberg could make this movie, let alone watch it.

Men don't appear to internalize movies in quite the same way. Which is why my husband likes movies like "Unforgiven" and I like movies like "Annie Hall." Movies where they talk a lot and explore the nature of relationships while wearing really neat clothes. I dressed like Diane Keaton for a year after that movie.

Reports have circulated back to my son, and Joe now knows nearly every scene from "Jurassic Park" -- even if his stupid mother is preventing him from being a part of his cultural mainstream.

When I asked, wouldn't he be afraid to actually see the movie, wouldn't he identify with the 9-year-old boy in it and be frightened, he said: "No, Mom. I'd probably be rooting for the 'raptors to get them."

Sure, Joe. Just wait till you have kids and your wife won't go with you to see movies like that.

Meanwhile, look for me in the movie house down the street, the one showing "Sleepless in Seattle."

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