June 05, 2009

Land of the Lost

The Monster Montage

Grade: C -

Director: Brad Silberling

Starring: Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride, and Jorma Toccone

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Will Ferrell has perfected (and earned a healthy living as) the obliviously punch-drunk oaf, but there is not another gear in his comedic transmission. Instead, Ferrell plows ahead, forcing his films’ milieus to adapt to him rather than the other way around. If time travel were actually possible, he would be the worst sort of wayfarer.

It is the audience, however, that gets taken for a ride en route to the Land of the Lost. The Krofft Brothers’ 1970s cult classic television series is the latest victim of a Hollywood, big-screen parody, à la Starsky & Hutch and The Brady Bunch. But, as was the case with The Dukes of Hazzard movie, it is difficult to mine satire out of already-kitschy source material. The stop motion animation and latex rubber suits worn by the lizard-like Sleestak in the original series were both imaginative and charmingly cheesy. CGI technology has improved the special effects, but save a few action sequences involving a marauding T-Rex named Grumpy, director Brad Silberling somehow manages to make a feature film that feels constructed on a smaller scale than its TV precursor.

Disgraced paleontologist Rick Marshall (Ferrell) cobbles together a gizmo that is part tachyon amplifier, part boom-box blasting away the soundtrack to A Chorus Line (why and how this occurs is never addressed). When his musical thingamabob conjures a space-time vortex, Rick, his eye-candy research assistant, Holly (Anna Friel), and a white-trash survivalist/tourist trap guide named Will (Danny McBride) find themselves flung into an alternate nether-dimension populated by strange creatures and littered with historical and pop-culture artifacts from our world – a Bob’s Big Boy here, a Cadillac Ranch there. More than a waypoint for wayward adventurers, this lost world is nostalgia’s graveyard.

Sadly, the interment includes any sense of discovery or humor. Ferrell and McBride muster a hipster-doofus byplay that staves off many comic dead spots. And, I expelled more than a couple of chuckles during off-kilter jabs at everything from the Latin Grammys to Harry and the Hendersons. But, most of the botched laughs are the chronic glut of poop and urine gags, while the time travelers’ pet primate-cum-Sherpa, Chaka (Jorma Taccone), specializes in intoxicating his human masters whilst groping their private parts.

With an inane screenplay more befitting something retrieved from lost & found, Land of the Lost is charmless and, worst of all, just plain inconsequential. Squint hard at that wasteland of pop relics, and soon you might see the rapidly-diminishing remnants of Will Ferrell’s career.

Neil Morris

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