By Matt Brunson
LAND OF THE LOST
DIRECTED BY Brad Silberling
STARS Will Ferrell, Danny McBride
The surprising thing about Land of the Lost isn't that it contains several hearty laughs; the surprising thing is that it contains any laughs at all. After all, Will Ferrell vehicles are increasingly becoming known for their inability to generate honestly earned guffaws, as the comedian generally calls it a day after establishing an ever-so-slight variation on his idiotic man-child routine and then throwing a couple of on-screen tantrums. Yet the reason this new picture works on occasion is precisely because it isn't a Will Ferrell movie; rather, it's a movie that just happens to star Will Ferrell.
During the 1970s, siblings Sid and Marty Krofft produced more cheese than the state of Wisconsin, as they were the creators of such TV kiddie kitsch classics as H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and The Bugaloos. Yet the Saturday morning offering Land of the Lost seems to hold the strongest nostalgic pull for boomers, so it's no wonder we're confronted with this big-screen update. Some major modifications have been made, however: Instead of forest ranger Rick Marshall and his two children accidentally tumbling through a portal that lands them in this alternate prehistoric land, we now have Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell), a disgraced scientist, actively studying time-space vortexes in the hopes of being able to visit other eras and places. He gets his wish when he's sucked back into a strange land, with hottie research assistant Holly (Anna Friel) and sarcastic redneck Will (Danny McBride) by his side. There, the three befriend a randy ape-man named Chaka (Jorma Taccone), steer clear of a rampaging dinosaur, and battle an army of lizardmen known as the Sleestak.
Land of the Lost works best when it plays up both the campy nature of the original enterprise and the quirkiness seemingly inspired by ad-libbing between its male stars. That one drug-addled sequence would feel more at home in an old Cheech & Chong flick points out that director Brad Silberling and company have no intention of keeping it all within the confines of a typical summer film for the whole family (indeed, the PG-13 rating gets quite the workout at various junctures).
The picture is at its absolute worst when it hands Ferrell the entire spotlight and allows him to do his standard shtick, as in an excruciating sequence whose (predictable) punchline is that the actor's character will drench himself in dino-piss and even take a swig for good measure. Moments such as these threaten to envelop the entire picture with a stench that's impossible to shake. Then suddenly, we're back in the land of the surreal, and the welcome eccentricity cuts through the mundanity like a knife through Brie.