Land of the Lost

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 06/19/09 05:13:31

"Still better than a Pufnstuf movie, I suppose."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

I could never quite figure out what the makers of “Land of the Lost” wanted to do, and I got the idea that they couldn’t quite figure it out, either. This just might be one of the most confused, cluttered, and off-the-mark TV adaptations to ever hit the big screen, a try-anything-loudly effort that bizarrely mixes sci-fi thrills with kiddie adventure set-ups and dick-and-fart-joke payoffs. It can’t commit itself to be anything, so it aims for everything, resulting in what could very well be the first family flick to feature the phrase “zombie dick.”

Yup, here’s a movie that takes the not-really-beloved Sid and Marty Krofft TV series (the brothers are credited as producers, suggesting a blessing of this mess, or at least the acceptance of a quickie paycheck) and dumps in Will Ferrell-led comedy that barely bothers to restrain itself for the PG-13 rating. With f-bombs, acid trips, and breast grabs around every corner, shameless vulgarity runs rampant - but not, oddly enough, rampant enough for the joke to work. It’d be one thing to fully commit to a gross-out, cuss-filled, R-rated send-up of “Lost,” recasting that show’s heroes with a trio of clueless jerks. But this “Lost” seems afraid to take this notion all the way to its logical extremes, so it backs off often, sprinkling in kid-friendly action set pieces and mediocre punchlines that rely entirely on cheap references to the old banjo-fueled theme song.

It winds up, then, being the sort of movie nobody can really like. Fans of Ferrell’s grown-up humor won’t like seeing the star step back from the boundaries of bad taste, while youngsters will be baffled by seeing how close he gets to that boundary in the first place.

The screenplay is from former “Entourage” producer Chris Henchy and former “SNL” writer Dennis McNicholas, with, one assumes, a heavy assist from Ferrell himself, leaving the picture with no coherent story, just a crudely pasted-together assortment of oddball sketch comedy ideas. So even if we accept that the movie is refusing to focus on a single style, grown-up or kiddie-friendly, we still can’t get past the haphazard approach to the material.

Nor can we ignore the simpler fact that most of the jokes, well, they just aren’t funny. Sometimes it’s a stale bit that might as well come with its own rimshot (when the monkey-boy, Cha-Ka, explains that his home is filled with ugly women, we can start the countdown to when they’ll be revealed to be sexy bikini babes). Other times it’s Ferrell straining to sell a gag that just doesn’t click (some shtick involving dinosaur urine wears out its welcome too soon, then goes on forever). And then there are the running gags that don’t work the first time and fail to improve with repetition (the frequent use of selections from “A Chorus Line” leads up to a dreadful sequence involving dino eggs, a volcano, and a sing-along). Meanwhile, Danny McBride plays the same dumbass white trash character he always plays, and by now his appearance on screen has grown tedious.

The whole thing feels as if it perhaps started out as a serious, action-heavy reworking of the show, only to get reworked as a comedy: “I know! We’ll take this oddball sci-fi thriller and toss in Ferrell’s trademark pompous idiot character! Let’s lose the chase and add in the part where he gets pooped out by the dinosaur!” Except they stopped tinkering halfway through the second draft, leaving in too many serious bits (we’re mysteriously asked to accept a sentimental moment between Ferrell and co-star Anna Friel). Plot points pop up only by necessity, as though the writers, finally finished with their string of dino-pee jokes, checks the original outline to see what scene to do next.

Director Brad Silberling - who brought so much manic, twisted life to his adaptation of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” - achieves some interesting things visually, especially once the heroes arrive in a sort of dumping ground where motel swimming pools and ice cream trucks find their way to this dimension’s desert. It’s a look that’s clever in its weirdness, and it fits nicely with Michael Giacchino’s adventurous “Planet of the Apes”-esque musical themes. But such brief fits of cleverness only frustrate more, as we’re left asking why we couldn’t get more of the daring eccentricity and less of the dino poop.

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