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Land of the Lost (2009) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 June 2009

Let's see, how does it go again? Oh yes! "Marshall, Will, and Holly/On a routine expedition/Met the greatest earthquake ever known./High on the rapids/It struck their tiny raft./And plunged them down a thousand feet below./To the Land of the Lost." That was the opening theme for a little Saturday morning show called Land of the Lost. A Sid and Marty Krofft production (the guys behind the brilliantly trippy H.R. Pufnstuf), the show featured bad acting and terrible special effects. But it also had some decent writing and the show always took itself seriously. While it had a reputation for being campy, that didn't stop it from being one of the best Saturday morning shows ever to hit the small screen. In theory, a film version of the show could have worked similarly to this year's Star Trek, although not as high profile (additionally, it could have been revamped on the small screen a la Battlestar Galactica). Instead, we get a sad, unfunny attempt at poking fun courtesy of the once-funny Will Ferrell.

Ferrell stars as Dr. Rick Marshall, a world renowned archaeologist. In a shocking move, he goes on The Today Show and declares that time travel is the only way to save the country's energy crisis. After Matt Lauer incessantly makes fun of him and then throws him off the show, Marshall ends up working at the Le Brea Tar Pits, hosting school field trips. His life looks hopeless until he's approached by Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), who thinks he is brilliant and should finish his work. Marshall does in fact create a machine that can magnify the effect of Tachyons, particles that travel backwards in time. Holly has evidence that Tachyons seem to emit from a specific spot, so off the two head, and while there they meet trailer trash Will Stanton (Danny McBride). The three head into a cave and fall into a portal, ending up in a strange land populated by dinosaurs and strange lizard men called Sleestacks. Now the trio has to survive, find the Tachyon device, and try to make it home alive.


I'm not really sure who is meant to enjoy Land of the Lost. Most of the fans of the original show recognize that the writing was solid, and that the campy trappings were just budgetary issues, not attempts at humor. This movie certainly doesn't cater to them. So perhaps it's aimed at families. Nope, too much crude sexual humor (or, rather, attempts at humor) to be suitable for kids. Raunchy comedy fans? It doesn't go far enough for them. Will Ferrell fanatics? They want a new Anchorman, not this. Indiscriminate moviegoers? Judging by the movie's opening weekend box office, even they didn't want to see this. So who's left? Frankly, I can't see why anyone would want to waste their time or their money on rubbish like this, especially when there's a brilliant comedy like The Hangover they could be seeing instead.

Will Ferrell, who made one of the funniest comedies of the decade in Anchorman, has been on a steady decline, and Land of the Lost does nothing to halt it. The film is sophomoric, and proves that Ferrell's blustry, overconfident but clueless dolt caricature has long since failed him as a comedic tool. There is a slight difference between Land of the Lost and most of his other movies. In this one he's generally considered a failure. Given that the film is PG-13 and meant to make more sense than, say, Step Brothers, Ferrell tones down some of the bizarre character traits that he normally indulges in, but it doesn't do anything to save the movie from its limp, uninteresting script.


Danny McBride gives it his best shot, and actually manages to provide the film's few funny lines (which I'm betting were entirely improvised). But even he can't raise the level of quality beyond merely forgettable. Anna Friel is attractive but not particularly funny. Let me amend that: Anna Friel is very attractive, and her breasts are getting repeatedly fondled throughout the picture (although, admittedly, most of it is by an ape man, which doesn't particularly do anything for me). Again, not enough reason to actually see the movie. The special effects are nothing great, but some people have theorized that they were made to be that way to appear more campy. If that were the case, it didn't work. The charm of the original special effects was that, as bad as they were, they were completely physical. These CGI effects don't come off as poorly made so much as made by a substandard company.

The only surprising thing about Land of the Lost is the large quantities of explicitly sexual humor. Aside from the fondling Holly receives at the hands of Chaka (and once by Danny McBride), there are several instances of incredibly vulgar humor. For example, early in the picture, the group sees two ape men planning to ritually sacrifice a third. Marshall makes comments about them, and then looks over at Will and says, "Are you touching yourself?" I'm not offended by the jokes (frankly, I'd be hard pressed to think of a joke that would truly offend me), but it's certainly a significant deviation from the show, and seems out of place in a movie seemingly aimed at families.

That's about all there is to say about Land of the Lost. It's not funny, it's not well written, it's boring even by Will Ferrell's quickly dropping standards. Danny McBride's few funny lines and Anna Friel's T&A can't save the movie from its own mediocrity. Do yourself a favor. If you want a great comedy, go see The Hangover. If you want to take your kids to something, go see Up. Let Land of the Lost stay lost.

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