by Mel Valentin
The seemingly endless onslaught of big-budget, effects heavy blockbusters that began only six weeks ago with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" followed by, in successive weeks, with "Star Trek," "Angels & Demons," "Terminator Salvation," "Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian," and "Up," with only "Up" as a non-sequel, non-prequel, non-reboot, continues with "Land of the Lost," the big-screen adaptation of the long-ago Saturday morning television series produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. "Land of the Lost" has been retooled as a Will Farrell vehicle, with all that implies. In other words, this isn’t your older brother’s "Land of the Lost," far from it actually. Outside of the general premise and character names (and yes, Sleestak, Grumpy, and Chaka), the emphasis is on Will Ferrell’s brand of lowbrow humor, including the usual ratio of gross-out gags to “dumb” jokes.From the get go, it’s obvious this isn’t the Land of the Lost many moviegoers remember fondly (or not-so-fondly) from their childhoods. The family dynamic at the center of the Saturday morning series has been jettisoned for a pseudo-romantic relationship between Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell), a self-described “quantum paleontologist” who’s laughed off the Today Show with Matt Lauer for his ill-supported theories, and Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), a British graduate student who, for no logical reason, believes in Marshall’s theories of alternate or parallel realities and doorways between worlds created by the concentration of tachyon particles. After Holly convinces Marshall to put the finishing touches on a tachyon amplifier (complete with show tunes from “A Chorus Line”), they drive to the middle of the desert where tachyon particles are surprisingly strong. There, they meet Will Stanton (Danny McBride), a local tour guide and practicing survivalist.
"More like "Land of the Easily Forgettable."
One cave exploration and test of the tachyon amplifier later and Marshall, Holly, and Will find themselves strangers in an strange land where the past, present, and future seem to coexist simultaneously. Almost immediately, the new arrivals meet Chaka (Jorma Taccone), a primitive primate who wandering hands (Holly’s breasts are his favorite subject). An outcast from his tribe for breaking the tribe’s rules, Chaka semi-unwilling joins the strangers. Marshall also makes an enemy of the resident alpha dinosaur, a T-Rex Holly dubs “Grumpy” for his unpleasant disposition. Marshall turns Grump into an enemy when he unknowingly insults Grumpy’s intelligence and other physical deficiencies. The time-lost, bug-eyed Sleestak, primate-hating reptile-men, however, pose an even more immediate danger to the new arrivals in the Land of the Lost. Enik (John Boylan), the only Sleestak who can talk, seems to be their best hope of returning home.
Contrary to its Saturday morning origins might suggest, Land of the Lost isn't a family film. The MPAA gave Land of the Lost a PG-13 rating “for crude and sexual content, and for language including a drug reference,” but five or six years ago, it probably would have received an “R” for its liberal use of expletives, including a surprising F-bomb from Will Farrell’s character. Brad Silberling (10 Items or Less, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, Moonlight Mile, City of Angels, Casper) may be credited with directing Land of the Lost, but Silberling seemed content to simply point the camera at Will Farrell, yell “action,” let him ad-lib a few lines, yell “cut,” and let the visual effects technicians do the rest. There’s nothing distinctive or inventive in his shot selections, visual compositions, or editing. Silberling is, in short, the relatively anonymous Hollywood director, well-paid, but relatively unknown to most moviegoers (and even movie buffs).With its humor first, story a distant second approach, Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas’ screenplay barely rises above the mediocre. Since "Land of the Lost" has been retooled Will Farrell’s comic persona, Farrell’s constant muggings and his character’s wrong-headed bloviating about anything and everything in particular have become the focus. Marshall isn’t so much dumb (a Farrell staple) as he is ignorant, willfully, blindly ignorant. His ignorance becomes the source, sometimes the only source, for the humor in "Land of the Lost." Occasional sight gags, including Marshall’s multiple run-ins with the smarter-than-he-looks Grumpy, an encounter with a prehistoric, blood-sucking insect, Will’s crass commentary, and Chaka’s horniness, provide "Land of the Lost" with the “funny.” Well, that and the ubiquitous product placement. In the most egregious example, Marshall name-drops current fast-food establishments. It’s less funny than it sounds and it doesn’t sound funny. Less like this, please.
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originally posted: 06/05/09 17:56:40