For folks who are lucky enough to have time off in the post-hectic, post-shopping-apocalyptic Christmas season, it’s always great to stay home and decompress. Even though the holidays are a time of family unity, good friends who come a-calling, and a concerted effort to spread goodwill and peace among men (and women), the run-up to the big December day can be stressful and anxiety-producing. What better way to come down from the Christmas countdown than to prop one’s feet up, turn on a favorite streaming service or movie channel, and lose one’s self in a world of fantasy and adventure? Sure, contending with the Black Friday onslaught and the crowds at every brick-and-mortar store was exhausting, but at least you weren’t having to fight giant lizards and super-intelligent raptors! Mattel acknowledges that with their Jurassic World doll sets, perfectly timed for the pre–New Year and post-mammoth-shopping era.
Mattel has fashioned a reputation for itself based on beauty and imaginary lives of glamour and opulence. Most of their dolls are gorgeous to behold, and even more fascinating to hold in one’s hands. You have to marvel at the tiny sequins or the finger-defying little zippers and buttons. The itty-bitty bedazzling beads and bangles are quite extraordinary on the Mattel Barbie dolls’ costumes, and her fellow runway pals are equally decked out in outfits that are marvels of small-sized engineering and ingenuity. Whether it’s creating an original character (like Barbie, Skipper, PJ, Francie, Teresa, et al.), or replicating a movie star in a portrait homage (think Liz Taylor, Grace Kelly, Julie Andrews), Mattel is all about the basics of good looks and a great wardrobe. That’s why the Jurassic World dolls are so eye-opening.
Chris Pratt is a lot of moviegoers’ idea of a fun and funny leading man. He first grabbed attention on TV’s “Parks and Recreation” as goofy and loveable Andy Dwyer. Even though his character was initially intended to be a recurring guest star, Pratt became a fan favorite. Looking slightly disheveled and able to do a pratfall into a wide-open, gaping dirt pit — he took his last name “Pratt” to a whole new level — Chris Pratt was an actor who was able to do physical comedy and make viewers care about him, too. These are both hallmarks of a good leading man — ticket buyers want to be entertained by their movie stars while also feeling a connection to them. Pratt brings that to his roles in two major blockbuster franchises, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Jurassic World.” (There’s even a third franchise for Pratt if you want to consider his voice work in the Lego films.)
The doll that is made to honor Pratt’s performance as Owen Grady, aka animal handler/Velociraptor expert/U.S. Navy veteran/ethologist, is not glamorous in the least. While Cary Grant or Clark Gable got to don tuxedoes in many of their big-screen roles, and the tribute dolls honor them in that buttoned-up formal image, Pratt’s work in “Jurassic World” has him playing opposite a small army of human co-stars and an enormous green-screen battalion of genetically engineered dinos. The Owen Grady dolls from Mattel salute a movie star who first became famous for playing an average Joe who could barely get up off his couch. Pratt spent much of his “Parks and Rec” time costumed in a bathrobe and leg cast from his character’s undignified tumble into the awful dirt pit. He went from being a man of inaction to being an ultimate action hero!
Well done, Mr. Pratt! Like all leading men who have preceded him, he has to have a love interest who can hold her own against his scene-stealing, star-making moves. In the “Jurassic World” franchise, there are not only Pratt’s facial mugging and body-building muscles (he re-made his anatomy for his movie roles) to contend with, but there are also CGI flying reptiles, swimming beasts, and skittering/scampering/sprinting dinosaurs. It is a motion-picture menagerie of motion-capture creatures. The female star who has to play opposite the real actors and the imaginary ones is Bryce Dallas Howard. With flaming red hair, creamy skin, and luminous eyes, she could be a lovely actress who swans about the screen in custom-made togs and skyscraper-high heels. Instead, she races from film scene to film scene in teetering heels, with a determined glower and a “take no prisoners” charisma. This isn’t Doris Day and Rock Hudson. The pairing of Howard and Pratt is more akin to Redford and Newman — two attractive stars who enjoy telling jokes, being macho, and doing very demanding stunt work.
Mattel has made leading ladies before who are action-based (they did Lara Croft in her new, more relatable physique, Alicia Vikander), but Mattel is still more lauded for their renderings of drop-dead gorgeous women rather than females who can strike a villain dead with a well-placed drop kick or gunshot. The Dallas Howard character of Claire Dearing — who proves to be a dear and so much more — got negative reviews and criticism from many feminists for her shoe attire in the first “Jurassic World” movie. She was taken to task for wearing such impractical high heels as she galumphed through the jungle, pursued by Cretaceous carnivores! (Please don’t write to complain if, indeed, the dinos were not from that time period. I’m just trying to get some alliteration going, people!)
Dallas Howard had to defend her heels in the 2015 first flick. It was akin to Barbie making a movie debut and then being hounded for appearing too long-limbed and high-arched. For 2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” the Claire character is more sensibly shoed. She has boots on when she finds herself back in the rain forest: “I think the journey of the footwear has definitely come to represent Claire and her character. In the beginning, she’s very disconnected from her own humanity, her environment, and her reality. That’s why it was hilarious to see her running through the jungle in heels. In ‘Fallen Kingdom,’ she’s going to wear proper footwear on the island because this time, she’s prepared. But for myself, as a staunch feminist, I really wanted to wear high heels in the scenes before that because that’s a representation of her femininity and her power. In the jungle, she can wear boots.”
So for the days trailing after Christmas and into 2019, “Jurassic World” dolls and the characters they portray are a perfect blending of Old Hollywood and modern-day sensibilities. Bryce Dallas Howard said it best when she revealed: “Claire does not fit neatly into either the ‘damsel in distress’ or the ‘strong heroic woman.’ You don’t necessarily like her all the time, but you relate to her. You understand her and believe the fight in her. Getting to play a woman who is determined and focused, while also at times clumsy and self-righteous, is exciting because that’s a human being.”
Mattel has honored screen pairings in the past, and they will in the future as well, but the “Jurassic World” couple is one that is messy, manic, and constantly on the move. It’s a “Fallen Kingdom” that bids adieu to well-groomed and coiffed Hollywood royalty.