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Land of the Lost: Land of the Lost Opportunity

One would think a marriage of Will Ferrell’s free form absurdism and Sid and Marty Krofft’s sublimely silly program “Land of the Lost” would result in at least a few inspired episodes within a ninety-minute feature film. However, the studios must have felt otherwise, as they clearly invested an enormous budget into creating dinosaurs with personality, thousands of Sleestaks, and beautifully crafted sets. Unfortunately for the studios, if the film isn’t funny, no one cares in the tiniest bit how terrific the production design that surrounds Will Ferrell is. None of the effects make the film work as an action/sci-fi genre, but the laughs aren’t frequent enough to make it a comedy either. The end result is diverting enough but never becomes truly entertaining, and I would be surprised if Will Ferrell is ever made the headline actor in a big-budget film again.

Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) is thrown out of the circle of popular science after his theory of time warps and alternate dimensions is publicly scorned in an interview with Matt Lauer (playing himself in a mildly amusing cameo). A graduate student named Holly (Anna Friel) encourages him to finish building the machine that will open a portal to the different dimensions. Taken into a cave where the machine indicates the possibility of inter-dimensional travel is high, Rick and Holly, along with cave tour guide Will (Danny McBride), end up in the land of the lost, filled with dinosaurs, giant bugs, and slow-moving reptile creatures called Sleestaks. How will they survive and get home?

The movie isn’t really concerned with the overall suspense of the film. It’s far more interested in the momentary suspense found in having dinosaurs and bugs jump into the picture. It also doesn’t seem concerned in creating too many laughs either, since Ferrell and McBride are both reduced to doing their usual shticks, and Friel is hardly given any jokes at all. They encounter a primate named Chaka, played by The Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone, who gives an earnest performance but the character only serves to grab Friel’s breast, because hey, monkeys grabbing boobs are funny, right? There is one joke involving a crystal that auto-tunes our hero’s voices that is funny. However, most other jokes resort to those standard Lowest Comic Denominators– boobs, poop, pee, saliva, and animals having sex (no, none of these things happen to or around Matt Lauer, unfortunately).

Why did this movie require an enormous budget? The whole humor of the original series pertains to the cheapness of the effects. The special effects do achieve a certain tongue-in-cheek cartoony feel, and the sets look impressively designed, as if they’re directly out of some deep Amazonian Dr. Seuss nightmare, but if these touches don’t result in actual laughs, what is the point? After films like Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, and now this, it’s clear that Will Ferrell is at his lunatic best when he is allowed to truly break free of plot and let his id hang out there. In these other films, we feel the machinations of the plot and the laughter becomes forced. In Adam McKay’s films, or in his supporting roles in things like Wedding Crashers or the TV series “Eastbound and Down,” Ferrell simply goes crazy, embracing every silence, and finding new perverted ways to milk laughter out of us. The sooner that movie studios learn that investing lots of money in expensive sets, costumes, co-stars, and plot devices– the very things that seem to restrain Ferrell’s comedy– is a bad idea, the sooner they’ll stop cranking out surefire bombs like Land of the Lost, praying the Ferrell faithful will turn out despite the weak product.

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~ by russellhainline on June 10, 2009.

One Response to “Land of the Lost: Land of the Lost Opportunity”

  1. Never really liked the look of this, the trailer wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, and now it’s officially rubbish? Will Ferrell used to be so watchable. Although, to be fair, he is a bit strange-looking, and not the world’s best actor or comedian. Just look at the trailer for some awful, awful moments of Ferrell-is-over: http://movies.sky.com/review/land-of-the-lost

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