Another Michael Crichton spin-off, reportedly budgeted at a cool $75 million, features a mysterious massacre, a climactic earthquake, a live volcano, rare diamonds, a lost African city, and lots of actors in gorilla suits; the recognizable cast includes Dylan Walsh, Laura Linney, Grant Heslov, and Joe Don Baker. I don’t know the novel, but judging from the script by Crichton and John Patrick Shanley, this must be scraping the bottom of the Crichton barrel. At first this moves along with a certain primitive charm by suggesting the naive African adventure pictures of the 30s; Ernie Hudson as the urbane tour guide conjures up memories of Clark Gable, David Niven, and Howard Keel, and Tim Curry seems at home here as a Romanian entrepreneur, but the script and the flat-footed direction by Frank Marshall repeatedly let them down, and none of the action sequences is as thrilling as it could be. Symptomatically, the 30s ingredient that seems most missing here is romanceunless one discounts the mutual admiration between a scientist and an ape. (JR)

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