Trapped Way Back in Time With a Bunch of Dopey Dinosaurs
The only marginally interesting, if unsurprising, thing about the pricey movie spinoff of the junky children’s television show “Land of the Lost” is that a lot of money has been spent on yet another cultural throwaway. (Never say that Hollywood doesn’t know how to recycle.) Although the original Sid and Marty Krofft series, which ran from 1974 to 1976, doubtless still has its fans, because, well, some people are happy to watch whatever pops up on their televisions, I suspect that a fair share also like to light up before tripping down that particular nostalgic byway. Alas, only popcorn and soda were served at the screening I attended.
Not that I didn’t sometimes laugh anyway. It’s hard not to laugh when Will Ferrell, who can be very funny when given something actually funny to do, takes off his shirt to brandish his flabby-pack, a ritual unveiling now apparently written into all his contracts. It’s a cheap gag, certainly cheaper than the digital dinosaurs that stomp through a few scenes (and less embarrassing than watching him plug the movie’s marketing partner, Subway). But it’s effective largely because Mr. Ferrell’s version of comedy’s familiar child-man always skews more creepy than sentimental. Unlike most comic actors, even the most assaultive, he never begs for our love. Instead he exploits our willingness to laugh at other people’s debasement. He makes you laugh, he makes you squirm.
In “Land of the Lost” he does both, if not nearly enough. Wearing his usual deadpan, he plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a “quantum paleontologist” whose crackpot theories lead him down a waterfall and into a twilight zone alongside a brainy British babe, Holly (Anna Friel, pure icing), and a Southern-boy sidekick, Will (Danny McBride, diverting if running close to empty), where past, present and future come together in what looks like a giant Palm Springs flea market. There a Bob’s Big Boy statue lies semiburied not far from an allusion to “Planet of the Apes” i.e., a peek-a-boo Statue of Liberty. Much like prospective shoppers, the characters roam about poking at this and that — in between cracking wise and sprinting from the regularly timed rampaging diversions.
Every so often the three visitors also cross paths with a few inhabitants of this thinly conceived fantasy, including a fuzzy critter, Chaka (Jorma Taccone), and a legion of googly-eyed lizard men, the Sleestaks, which materialize in the jungle part of the set. It’s no surprise given the original material and the conspicuously low goals set here that the director, Brad Silberling, and the writers, Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas, don’t give Mr. Ferrell and company much to do. That said, in between all the incidental nonsense they slip in an amusing interlude featuring a druggy substance and some male bonding that suggests that the best way to enjoy the desert is to bask in friendship under the light of multiple moons.
“Land of the Lost” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Mildly raunchy language and gnashing dinosaur teeth.
LAND OF THE LOST
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Brad Silberling; written by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas, based on the television series created by Sid and Marty Krofft; director of photography, Dion Beebe; edited by Peter Teschner; music by Michael Giacchino; production designer, Bo Welch; produced by Jimmy Miller, Sid Krofft and Marty Krofft; released by Universal Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes.
WITH: Will Ferrell (Dr. Rick Marshall), Danny McBride (Will Stanton), Anna Friel (Holly Cantrell) and Jorma Taccone (Chaka).