Land of the Lost
Director : Brad Silberling
Screenplay : Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas (based on the television series created by Sid & Marty Krofft)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2009
Stars : Will Ferrell (Dr. Rick Marshall), Anna Friel (Holly Cantrell), Danny McBride (Will Stanton), Jorma Taccone (Cha-Ka), John Boylan (Enik), Matt Lauer (Himself)
Early in Land of the Lost, Brad Silberling’s big-screen comedic take on the low-budget ’70s Saturday morning TV series, Danny McBride’s Will Stanton, the trailer-park proprietor of a run-down desert funhouse ride, is giving his tour to a scientist named Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) and Rick’s dedicated British assistant Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel). Will is doing everything in his power to play up the excitement of his cheeseball tour through a flooded papier-mâché cave, complete with lousy rubber suits on wires and such nonsensical proclamations as, “This cave has been here for a hundred years and holds a thousands mysteries. Or maybe it has been here for a thousand years and holds a hundred mysteries. That is one of the mysteries.” Rick and Holly, who are intently looking for something in the cave, are not listening to a word he’s saying, and Will finally throws up his hands in exasperation, complaining that they are not paying his shtick any attention.
That’s pretty much how I felt through the entirety of Land of the Lost as it laboriously did everything in its power to throw goofy entertainment my way and failed at virtually every turn. Like Rick and Holly, I was looking for something else--a better movie, to be exact--and thus I found it difficult to focus or make much sense of the movie’s hectic sense of comical abandon. Perhaps it is because, despite being a child of the ’70s, I did not watch Sid and Marty Krofft’s Land of Lost on Saturday mornings, thus I was not in a position to be drawn into the movie’s purposefully hokey-looking riff on nostalgic childhood junk. Or perhaps the movie wasn’t quite weird enough, so instead of seeming inspired in its dementedness, it just seemed inept and desperate.
In the TV series, a father and his two children on a rafting trip are sucked into a portal that takes them to an alternate universe that fuses elements of the distant past (namely dinosaurs and prehistoric monkey-people) with elements of fantasy and science fiction (namely a race of lizard men known as Sleestaks). The basic idea remains in the movie version, but instead of a family we have the unlikely trio of Rick, Holly, and Will who plunge into the alternate universe as a result of Rick’s invention, a “Tachyon Amplifier,” which had caused him to be banished from mainstream science several years earlier (a disastrous appearance on The Today Show with Matt Lauer, gamely playing an extra-glib version of himself, didn’t help). Once in the “Land of the Lost,” Rick and company find themselves faced with a particularly angry and vindictive Tyrannosaurus Rex, but they are also befriended by Cha-Ka (Jorma Taccone), a boyish monkey-man with particularly bad teeth whose chatterings Holly can inextricably understand.
Holding it all together are some feeble plot mechanics regarding the Sleestaks and a nefarious plan to use Rick’s Tachyon Amplifier to take over the universe. We also get plenty of visual effects of rampaging dinosaurs, fast-crawling bugs, and a random assortment of cultural signifiers from different eras (a Viking ship, the Golden Gate Bridge, a roadside motel) scattered throughout a desert that are meant to lie somewhere in the gray zone between the original series’ hokey stop-motion animation and today’s mega-engineered photorealistic CGI. However, the only true enjoyment to be had derives primarily from the comical interactions between Will Ferrell and Danny McBride, two actors who aren’t afraid to let it all hang out. Ferrell’s well-honed man-child persona is the main attraction here, as he constantly misjudges everything at every opportunity and runs screaming like a schoolgirl as a result. McBride, on the other hand, does something similar to what he did in last summer’s Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, which basically amounts to stealing almost every scene he’s in. He doesn’t have as much to work with this time around, but he does enough to salvage at least a few scenes from this wreck of a would-be comic blockbuster.
Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick
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