LAND OF THE LOST (2009, directed by Brad Siberling, 93 minutes, USA)
BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC
No matter how crappy the new Land of the Lost film might be, it would be hard to say it is less competent than the original seventies kid’s show. Sure,you might be fond of the cute ape boy Cha–Ka, you might have loved the bug-eyed reptilian Sleestaks, but can you remember a single plot line from the original forty-three episodes? I couldn’t, and going back to that Sid & Marty Kroft Saturday favorite recently I was surprised to see just how cheesy and poorly written the show was, cursed with the worst of stop-motion animation and stories that were half-digested rip-offs of Star Trek and the Planet of the Apes. So while Land of the Lost may be shameless Hollywood product, filled with blatant product endorsement and no-brow poop and pee jokes, it is not spoiling the memory of a childhood classic. I’d even go so far to pronounce Land of the Lost as downright “genial junk” (print that alliterative quote, Universal!).
Going for straight comedy this time around, the hairy-bellied Will Ferrell is scientist Rick Marshall, who after wrestling with a disrespectful Matt Lauer on The Today Show (Lauer as himself, whoever that is) is left a discredited scientific pariah. Anna Friel is Holly, not Rick’s daughter this time but a British college student who believes Rick’s theory of inter-dimensional energy. Will is transformed from son into goofy cave guide (hot comic Danny McBride of Pineapple Express) and before you know it their routine expedition meets the greatest earthquake ever known, plunging them down a thousand feet below, to the Land of the Lost.
You might recognize the words to the show’s theme song in that last paragraph; since the theme is one of the few things people remember about the show, the film gets in a couple of jokes about the tune (with Megadeath’s Dave Mustaine adding some riffs) as the trio wander around a post-civilization world where the Golden Gate Bridge is beached right next to the Sphinx and an old drive-in screen. The film’s best idea was to stay true to the ridiculous rubber costumes the Sleestak wear, which no amount of exaggeration could make funnier. Some of the films most weird/funny scenes take place of that nether-zone inhabited by the tunic-wearing Sleestak Enik, who is forever waving his hands over the crystals as he spouts some 70’s New Age philosophy. There’s some funny bits with “A Chorus Line” and Cher’s “Believe” yet with much of the talent connected to SNL, one might hope that there was more of a snap among all the gross out gags. Land of the Lost does however sustain a certain stoned age amiability that defines the best of Will Ferrell’s unambitious catalogue of goofy late night cable time-wasters.