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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.17%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 18.75%
Pretty Bad: 37.5%
Total Crap39.58%

6 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Land of the Lost
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Where The Dinosaurs Aren't Extinct But The Comedy Certainly Is"
1 stars

Tell me honestly, is there anyone out there who has actually been yearning to see a big-budget movie version of “Land of the Lost,” the cheesy Seventies-era Saturday morning kiddie show featuring the misadventures a trio of ordinary people who were mysteriously zipped back in time to a world overrun by dinosaurs, bizarre creatures and dodgy special effects? Granted, having somehow made it through nearly 38 years of existence without every watching a single episode of the show (presumably the result of strong parenting and the impeccable taste that I displayed even as a barefoot boy with cheek of tan), I don’t really have much of a stance in this particular argument but I would have assumed that any desire to see ordinary people dodging giant dinosaurs would have been sated by the “Jurassic Park” films and any number of Sci-Fi Channel original movies. Nevertheless, someone decided that not only were audiences out there clamoring for just such a thing but that the original property could be “improved” by transforming what was originally a silly children’s fantasy into a broad bonehead comedy vehicle for Will Ferrell to trot out his particular brand of shtick. It is easy to understand why it was made--at the very least, it will no doubt inspire increased sales in the DVD sets of the old series and the idea of Ferrell confronting dinosaurs sounds appealing in theory. What is more difficult to understand is why, after seeing the first few days of footage, no one in charge didn’t decide to bring the project to a quick and merciful end instead of forging on to complete what could be one of this summer’s lamest would-be blockbusters.

Ferrell stars as Dr. Rick Marshall, a goofball genius scientist whose controversial theories about “quantum paleontology”--the idea that one can travel sideways through time into parallel dimensions where the past, present and future converge--have made him the laughingstock of both the scientific community and, thanks to an on-air tiff with Matt Lauer, YouTube. Now reduced to working at the La Brea tar pits, where his theories fail to invoke much interest from grade school tours, he is visited by the comely Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), a student who is convinced that Marshall’s theories are correct and brings him a piece of proof in the form of a prehistoric fossil that nevertheless contains the imprint of a cigarette lighter. Inspired by this discovery, Marshall completes work on a machine that could connect our world with these other dimensions--because it is a wacky comedy, the machine also inexplicably plays the score of “A Chorus Line” while in operation--and the two rush out to the desert cave where the fossil was found in order to test it out. The cave is part of a chintzy tourist trap run by the sleazy Will Stanton (Danny McBride) and while taking them on a tour of the cave, Marshall’s machine springs to life and causes a rift in the time-space continuum that lands them in an alternate world in which detritus ranging from Viking ships to Bob’s Big Boy statues litter the landscape and creatures such as the ape-like Pakuni and the Creature from the Black Lagoon-esque Sleestaks roam the land and dinosaurs occasionally show to tear anything they can find into pieces. While struggling to find their machine figure out a way to return home, the three deal with such things as a horny Pakuni (Jorma Taccone), an exceptionally persistent T-Rex, prehistoric hallucinogens and some plot involving an evil alien who wants to use Marshall’s machine as a way to destroy the universe with Earth naturally being the first location in its crosshairs.

As “Land of the Lost” lumbered along, many questions went through my mind but the most persistent one was arguably the most basic: “Who is this movie being made for in the first place?” In theory, you would think that the central target would be family audiences consisting of parents who retained fond memories of the show from their childhoods and who want to pass them down to their own offspring. However, it seems as if everyone involved has gone to considerable lengths to make sure that the film would not appeal at all to this core group of potential viewers. Instead of trying to approximate the cheerfully cheesy costumes and effects of the original series, director Brad Silberling has instead made the decision to make all the creatures as fearsome as possible in the style of “Jurassic Park” and while that idea may have seemed interesting from a conceptual standpoint, the result is likely to serve as nightmare fuel for younger and more impressionable viewers. At the same time, the screenplay by Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas is so filled with adult oriented jokes, innuendo and flat-out grossness (such as a firecracker being referred to as a “Mexican Vasectomy,” the Pakuni’s constant mauling of Holly’s breasts and a long sequence in which Marshall deliberately douses himself with dinosaur urine not once, but twice) that many parents are likely to be outraged over the content in what they presumed to be a kid-oriented movie. Alas, it is less a family film as it is another Will Ferrell vehicle in which he plays a guy who is interchangeably a genius in his field and a blithering idiot, always spouting off strange epithets (“Captain Kirk’s Nipples!”) and who gets to indulge in a musical number when things begin to slack off. (Just to show how taut this screenplay is, he gets two musical numbers here, including a rendition of the theme song from the original show in a move that isn’t so much “meta’ as it is idiotic.) Unfortunately, his shtick here is staler than usual and the fact that he is making jokes and comments about visual effects that presumably weren’t there when he was film only throws his comedic rhythms off further. Alas, if “Land of the Lost” proves any scientific theory, it is the one I posited a couple of weeks ago in my review of “Night at the Museum 2”--with the major exception of “Ghostbusters,” comedy and large-scale special effects simply do not mix because the former requires spontaneity (or at least the illusion of spontaneity) to succeed while the later requires the kind of technical precision that is usually the death of comedy.

If you somehow find yourself in the unenviable position of being forced to watch “Land of the Lost” for whatever reason, the best thing I can tell you is that there are a couple of very occasional bright spots. There are a couple of out-there one-liners, mostly courtesy of Danny McBride, that are pretty funny (on the off-chance that you do wind up going, I won’t spoil any of them for you here), the combination of cinematographer Dion Beebe and production designer Bo Welch results in the occasional arresting image (again, I won’t spoil any of them for you here) and the sight of the relentlessly adorable Anna Friel running around for most of the film’s duration in short-shorts is definitely a morale boost (a revelation that I trust is not a spoiler). The problem with the film is that with the exception of these trace elements, the rest of it falls into the same category as such other notable “improvements” as New Coke, the recent redesigns of Facebook and “Newsweek” and those faux-IMAX theaters--a corporate-driven craptacular that seems to have been deliberately calibrated to alienate old fans and newcomers alike.

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originally posted: 06/05/09 14:00:00
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User Comments

1/24/21 Kerry It was trash. Boring. Stupid. Aimless. Obnoxious. 1 stars
5/19/16 Jim I laughed throughput this movie. Thought the visuals were great. Don't get why it's panned. 5 stars
2/04/11 Dr.Lao Another movie based on a TV series made by people who did not get the appeal of the series 1 stars
6/03/10 Cat Boring, stupid and not worth the time I spent watching on calbe. 1 stars
10/20/09 g. crap 1 stars
8/11/09 Julia Cox Upside:Old-time pseudosci-fi adventure. Downside:Will Farrell's trademark overabsurdity. 3 stars
7/24/09 alice I love Will Ferrell, but this movie is simply awful. 1 stars
6/23/09 Luisa Will Ferrell's crazy... not bad 3 stars
6/11/09 Ming I think this film is ok....if you like the original lost tv show 3 stars
6/10/09 Will F Hey, this doesn't stink! It's the best movie this summer. 5 stars
6/07/09 Maven Trekkies looking for even more nostalga will probably love this turd movie too. 1 stars
6/06/09 Mattomic We used to make fun of a kid at school by calling him Chaka. God, we were mean. 1 stars
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  05-Jun-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2009


  DVD: 13-Oct-2009

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