If there is one word to describe my feelings leaving the theater after watching Land of the Lost it would be POINTLESS. I might say that Sid and Marty Krofft (the show’s original creators) are now rolling over in their graves but I can’t because there still alive and attached as producers of this summer misfire. From my point of view this project was ill conceived from the get go. When somebody said “let’s get Will Ferrell and spend a $100 million dollars + on a big screen version of a 1970’s campy sci-fi kids show and play it for laughs” they probably had the best of intentions but, in hindsight, they should have chalked the idea up to a moment of bad judgment or even temporary insanity.
It is obvious that director Brad Silberling (Casper) was stuck between a rock and a hard place, not being able to decide what tone was appropriate from scene to scene. The film is too adult for kids and too childish for adults. That’s a tough spot to be in. While the television show focused in on a father, his son and daughter, stuck in a pre-historic time, this film version changes things a bit. Will Ferrell plays the title character of Dr. Rick Marshall, a quantum paleontologist who bumbles into inventing a time-travel device that takes him, an admirer of his – Holly (Anna Friel) – and a dimwitted redneck – Will (Danny McBride) – into an alternate dimension full of dinosaurs, monkey people (the main one Chaka – played by Jorma Taccone of SNL) and lizard type aliens know as Sleestacks. The moment the trio arrive in this Land of the Lost the film feels like a night at the improv. Why? Because everything that comes after it feels like the actors are adlibbing. If there was an actual script it can’t have been much. The film sort of plods along from one set piece to the next with no sense of any real adventure or purpose. Its 92 minute running time felt much longer.
The humor is strained with the script resorting to low level bits such as Ferrell pouring dinosaur urine all over his head in an effort to ward off an angry T-Rex, his encounter with an enormous mosquito and Friel’s Holly getting felt up by the monkey boy Chaka. Danny McBride is amusing as the dimwitted Will but he runs out of things to do as the story goes along. In its defense there are a few very interesting visuals and a solid CGI T-Rex but these are pretty much wasted with the juvenile tone of the film. I also liked Anna Friel’s legs – she looked pretty good in her hiking shorts but I don’t suppose that was the only reason she was supposed to be there.
Matt Lauer of the Today show appears in bookend scenes at the beginning and end as he spars with the Ferrell’s Marshall character which is amusing but overall Land of the Lost is just a huge disappointment. Most of the film is mediocre to bad, except for a few scenes – one with the Sleestack leader Enik which is stunningly awful and one laugh when Chaka burst out in song, but as a person who watched the original show every Saturday morning during its original run (1974-1977) I felt dazed and confused at the end.
It’s hard to defend the original TV show on pure merit but I would much rather have had this material played straight than endure what Ferrell and company turned it into. As summer clunkers go we could be looking at this generation’s Howard the Duck. Although it appears that Land of the Lost has its defenders with a handful of fanboy sites such as ainticool, cinematical, comingsoon, slashfilm and chud providing a positive review, I don’t know what they’re thinking. To me you would have to be on pretty serious drugs to like this movie. So I say, avoid it at all costs unless, of course, you do have a habit. 1.5 zombies out of 5.