If you’re reading this during Land of the Lost‘s opening weekend and happened to have come here from our homepage, you may have noticed the GIANT LAND OF THE LOST AD enveloping it. So, for those of you who think our advertisers dictate our reviews, you probably shouldn’t read on. (And those of you who thought our "Best/Worst Movie Time Machines" piece was a thinly-veiled ad for Land of the Lost, you should just stop reading the site entirely.)
Because I genuinely liked Land of the Lost.
The film’s detractors are founding a lot of their hatred on the fact that Land of the Lost doesn’t seem like it knows what it wants to be. Its basis is a saturday morning kids’ show from the ’70s. But its cast – particularly the male side of it – has made a career out of blue humor, and they don’t kick the habit entirely, here. You have Will Ferrell (Dr. Rick Marshall), who’s no slouch when it comes to unabashed nudity (Old School) or old-fashioned misogyny (Anchorman). You have Danny McBride (Will) who is peerless in his portrayal of prideful, narrowminded characters who live by ridiculous codes (The Foot Fist Way, "Eastbound & Down"). And you have The Lonely Island and SNL’s Jorma Taccone (barely recognizable under his Cha-Ka fur), who writes songs about dicks in boxes and mother loving. Not exactly the crowd you’d immediately think of when adapting a property that once ran opposite shows like "Hong Kong Phooey" and "The New Adventures of Gilligan."
But we’ve seen this sort of irreverent homage to ’70s source material before, and it’s kinda worked. People championed Betty Thomas’s 1995 spoof of the "The Brady Bunch." And the Starsky & Hutch movie, while met with mixed reviews, wasn’t criticized for its taboo brand of comedy. But I guess those shows’ original audiences skewed older. Nonetheless, everyone who watched "Land of the Lost" growing up is now old enough to experience a mouthed F-bomb from Will Ferrell, or hear Danny McBride call Grumpy the T-Rex "a pussy." And I thought those moments that rode the edge of the film’s PG-13 rating were used well.
The plot isn’t going to win any awards. It’s pretty much there to hang funny scenes from, and I thought some of the bits between Ferrell and McBride were inspired. Without giving too much away, the moment when Danny McBride manipulates his voice with a vibrating pylon – apparently an iconic piece of the original show – in order to pay tribute to Cher… well, that one was worth the price of admission, especially when Ferrell decides the song is best performed as a duet. And I thought that, while they could have taken it even further, Ferrell’s character’s gluttonous eating habits that surface in stressful situations were used to great comic effect. For example, Dr. Marshall nonchalantly explains to his impromptu understudy Holly (the funny and charming and gorgeous Anna Friel) that he’s eating a donut filled with M&M’s so "when you finish the donut, you don’t have to eat any M&M’s." It’s a deadpan, beautifully naive line reading that rings true for anyone out there – myself included – who enjoys junk food a little too much at times. And it becomes a good go-to source for gags once Dr. Marshall and company crash land in the titular location. Also, the moment from the trailer with the giant crab on the offensive has a totally ludicrous payoff that laughs in the face of logic, but sometimes those make the best jokes.
On a visual note, the CG was a lot better than I expected, and mixed well with the Sid and Marty Krofft-inspired, Bo Welch-crafted production design. It was an interesting combination of lo-fi and new school technical wizardry, and I haven’t seen much like it. And director Brad Silberling, who’s always had a sort of grand confidence behind the camera on his bigger films (Lemony Snicket, Casper), really managed to leave room for the actors to mess around while still keeping the momentum heading forward, and decidedly quicker than the villainous, reptilian Sleestak who threaten to devour Dr. Marshall and company, if they could ever catch up to them.
Oh, and Matt Lauer CAN suck it.
Screen Junkies Grade: B