Land of the Lost
It may take a swallow to make a summer, but the season is never complete without a turkey or two. This year that would be Land Of The Lost, a big screen adventure based on a tacky but unpretentious Saturday morning TV show that probably cost about six bucks to make back in the 1970s.
Today, of course, Hollywood realises the true value of dinosaurs, time travel, aliens, and cheesy special effects: the producers invested $100 million to get it just so. And US box office has flatlined at less than half that number, making this a costly miscalculation.
Will Ferrell is Dr Rick Marshall, a brilliant scientist and/or complete nutball, a man who believes he holds the answer to saving the earth: Time Warps. Ridiculed and rejected by his peers, Marshall is challenged to put his theories to the test by Cambridge research student Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel).
To his astonishment, the tachyon amplifier device he rigs up out of an old boombox works only too well. Together with Will Stanton (Danny McBride) a redneck carny worker who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Dr Rick and Holly are transported to a temporal vortex, a land where dinosaurs, primates and sundry detritus from the twentieth century co-exist. This earth-like environment has also attracted an alien species, the “Sleestaks”, who resemble bug-eyed lizard monsters from a low budget 50s horror movie.
All the elements are in place for a fun family adventure, except, that is, for the script.
‘Land of the Lost’ is a fair description of the aimless, rambling regress as our hapless trio seeks a way back home. Dr Rick gets into a grudge match with a T Rex that Holly nicknames “Grumpy”; douses himself in dino pee, and picks up a hairy but communicative ape-man, Cha-Ka (Jorma Taccone). Otherwise, they run around in circles a lot.
It feels more like a whistle-stop tour of a rather rundown theme park than an actual story.
It doesn’t help that director Brad Silberling (Moonlight Mile) has evidently decided this is just too silly for words and encouraged his team to camp it up. That goes for the production design, which is intentionally threadbare, hokey music choices (with extracts from A Chorus Line featuring prominently), and especially Ferrell and McBride, who seem to have been given free rein to riff at random.
I’m a Ferrell fan – and enjoyed McBride’s antics in Pineapple Express – but their risqué improv style feels out of place in a movie aimed at younger viewers. A puerile running gag involves Cha-Ka fondling Holly’s breasts (poor Anna Friel suffers this indignity with the contempt it deserves). In another scene the three males get high on the local fruit juice and come close to making out. Then there’s the low point when Dr Rick decides to give up, unzips his fly and announces his intention to comfort himself… I don’t know, maybe this is funny to a ten-year-old, but their parents are more likely to feel uncomfortable at such relentlessly off-colour gags.
On the other hand, youngsters won’t be picking up the multiple, junky pop culture references, including Mysterious Island, The In-Laws, not forgetting the original show.
Ferrell’s trademark dumbbell bluster does generate a few giggles, and you certainly couldn’t accuse him of taking himself too seriously. Apparently there is nowhere this man won’t go for a laugh – including a top-to-bottom trip through a dinosaur’s digestive tract.
Ho-hum. There will be worse films this year, and I’d rather sit through this self-indulgent goof-off again than suffer more bombastic overkill from Michael Bay, but really, there have to be better ways to waste time than this. At least we’ll be spared a sequel.
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