A film review by Craig J. Koban
LAND OF THE LOST
2009, PG-13, 93 mins.
2009, PG-13, 93 mins.
Dr. Rick Marshall: Will Ferrell / Holly: Anna Friel / Will: Danny
McBride / Chaka: Jorma Taccone / Matt Lauer: Himself
OF THE LOST is absolutely proof positive that the only way to combat an
unrelentingly idiotic and silly premise is to have a lead actor that is
able to easily harness all of the film’s unbridled and outlandish
Will Ferrell, whom – more than any other actor working in movies today
– takes an absurdist, go-for-broke, and brilliantly wacky and daft
improvisational gusto and swings and hits for the rafters every time.
His strength has always been his complete lack of self censorship:
he will commit himself to do or say just about anything to get a
chuckle from viewers, and that sort of determination is to be commended.
This guy takes self-humiliation to a whole new level – he simply
does not care how imbecilic he comes across.
consider a few key moments in LAND OF THE LOST that would have – if
performed by a different actor – come off as a series of tired and
monotonous special effects action sequences.
In one sly and uproarious scene Ferrell’s "quantum paleontologist", Rick Marshall, is being chased by a ravenous, man hungry
T-Rex (don’t ask for the particulars now).
Just as the dino starts to make its attack the hapless doctor
exclaims, “Yes! He is
definitely in predator mode now!” He
and his friends flee, but they do not seem to be gaining much ground,
which leads to his partner (Danny McBride) asking him why he is wearing
“high heel shoes,” to which Marshall deadpans back, “These are not
high heel shoes. There are my
Florsheim zipper boots!” Even
more hysterical is when he decides to strategize about getting away from the
prehistoric behemoth...while being chased by it: Just as the T-Rex is closing in, Ferrell hilariously
deadpans, “I will run in a serpentine pattern, which will make it
incapable of rapid course correction.”
The dino rather easily catches and nabs the dimwitted Professor.
see? That’s the
Ferrellian touch. With
another dime-a-dozen actor, these scenes would have been woefully
with Ferrell fully on board and engaging is his giddy and guffaw-inducing
improvisational wit, he turns these moments into small, absurd, and logic-skewed comic gems. LAND OF
THE LOST utilizes Ferrell for what he’s best at: playing loveable, but
intellectually bankrupt fools that find themselves in the most
impractical situations possible. Sure,
Ferrell does not stray away from his comedic well here, but when he’s
giving free reign to put his comedic foot to the pedal, he’s a frequent
and unstoppable laugh-a-minute force.
is the same Ferrell that – as a depressed divorcee trying to
reclaim his youth in OLD SCHOOL - crashed a children's birthday party
by accidentally shooting himself in the jugular with a horse tranquilizer
gun. This is the same Ferrell that - as an clueless, misogynistic news man in ANCHORMAN:
THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY
– told an aspiring female reporter to her face that she was a "pirate hooker" with
a pee-sized brain that should go back to "whore island" where
she belongs. Yes, this is the same Ferrell that – as an aging pro
Basketball player in SEMI PRO – told a
capacity crowed to flee for their lives and to use children as human shields
to wield off a rampaging grizzly bear, seeing as the bear “loves tasty
and tender young meat.” Yes,
this is the same Ferrell that – as a bumbling red necked race car drive
in TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY
BOBBY – stabbed himself in the leg to prove to his incredulous
buddies that he was paralyzed, but then recoiled in fist biting horror and
pain when he realized that he is not. So,
when I saw this same unrelentingly capricious spirit run fully amok
throughout LAND OF THE LOST, I found it next-to-impossible to not chuckle
all the way through it. It’s
Ferrell's very innate and infectious nonsensicality and penchant for self-debauchery
that makes the sheer preposterous of LAND OF THE LOST tolerable.
this was the only way to remake a children’s television series that was
legendary for its epic scale concept and incredibly strange plot, but
almost more so for
its bargain bin production values.
Instead of going for the big-budget, glossy sheen and serious tone
that was ill-fitted for other past movie adaptations of classic, family
sci-fi shows (like LOST IN SPACE), this one goes for all out laughs (like,
say, how STARSKY AND HUTCH went for
parody), which is the precise and wise choice.
In the original series (mostly unseen by me) that ran from 1974-1976 the
main character was a park ranger father that had two children that were zapped
to a mysterious, interdimensional world (kind of a place where the past,
present and future coalesce) via a dimensional portal (what else?).
The film bares very little, if any, resemblance to the kiddie show,
other than in terms of its basic premise, but this time instead of a
father and two children we get Will Ferrell and Danny McBride in full
man-child mode. No need for
kids when you got the likes of those two inspired talents acting like
infants throughout the entire film. Thankfully,
they do have a straight man (or in this case, woman) to round out the trio nicely.
mentioned, Ferrell plays a “quantum paleontologist” that is, as would
be expected, the laughing stock of the scientific community, not to
mention the media as a whole. During
a sidesplitting opening sequence - played by Ferrell to idiotic crescendos
- he is being interviewed on the The Today Show by Matt Lauer (played by the
real Lauer). Dr. Marshall has stated that he has discovered a way to avoid
the new energy crisis. Lauer
responds to that statement by asking, “Renewable biofuels?” Marshall replies, “No.
Time Warps." A
befuddled Lauer then informs the crazy Marshall that the scientific world –
especially Stephen Hawking – thinks he’s a loon.
Marshall, in a juvenile tantrum, rips off his microphone and screams,
“You promised you would not bring him up!”
When Lauer makes a sarcastic jab at the shamed scientist as he’s
walking off the set, Marshall runs back and lunges himself at Lauer in a
to forget about The Today Show incident, Marshall takes his pompous,
overzealous, and Matt Lauer hating passion back to the lab, hoping to make
a breakthrough. He tries to
make a tachyon amplifier, which will, of course, amplify tachyons in hopes
of creating time warps. He
is befriended only by one person, a fellow British scientist named Holly (the very
fetching and lovely Anna Friel) who thinks that Marshall is an unfairly
chastised genius. Well, that takes a real stretch for any person, seeing as
Holly first meets Marshall just after he has, by his own admission, eaten himself into a food
coma out of his frustration with his project.
and Holly decide to test out his new and improved tachyon machine in a tachyon-plentiful cave. Accompanying
them is a sarcastic jackass-loner named Will (Danny McBride,
effectively playing this comedic role in his sleep) and the group heads
into one of the caves and – Great Odin’s Raven! – the machine works
and the trio are whisked away to the “Land of the Lost”, which is
filled with exotic plant life, physical landmarks and remnants of Earth’s
past and present, temperamental and grumpy dinosaurs, telepathic reptilian aliens hell bent on earth’s subjugation, and a newfound ally
that takes the form of a half human, half ape boy primate named Chaka (the
totally unrecognizable Jorma Taccone, who was bizarrely hilarious in all
of those Lonely Island digital shorts with partner Andy Samberg).
Oh…there are also show tunes, and this film marks the very first
time in film history that a jingle from A CHORUS LINE was used as a method to escape a
a weak side, there is not much of an actual and sustained plot in LAND OF
THE LOST, but the film exists primarily as a comic vehicle for Ferrell and
company. The CGI
special effects look, oddly enough, both polished and hopelessly fake, which I think is
the intention here, which helps to accentuate the film’s laughs.
The aforementioned sequence involving Ferrell trying to outrun
– on numerous occasions – a mighty p-oed T-Rex is tirelessly amusing, and
even more creepily hilarious is a moment when Ferrell thinks he has found
a method to ensure that the dinosaur cannot locate him: he showers
himself all over his body with dino pee.
When he does this, he predictably
squints his eyes, smacks his lips, and shows a cringe-worthy
confusion on his face. Then,
to the dismay of his friends and to the audience, he decides to dose
himself yet again, hoping that it will provide even more camouflage, not
stopping the intense stinging in his eyes from the first urine shower, to
which he cry outs, “That immediately did not help at all!” He also has a disturbingly funny moment when a gargantuan
mosquito proceeds to suck most of his blood out of his body
(“Man, I am getting really weak for some reason"), later
revealing a mosquito bite the size of a watermelon on his back.
Ferrell may not have a sense of tact and decorum, but he goes well
past normal levels to make us laugh: he’s a willing charlatan.
as Ferrell’s partner in comedic crime here, also generates considerable
laughs, mostly in reaction shots, even though he essentially plays the
straight man responding to most of Ferrell’s bumbling and buffoon-like
antics as any normal person would. I
don’t think that the film utilizes Jorma Taccone as the creature Chaku
who essentially grunts and groans his way through the film (but he does
occupy a very funny moment when he shows how capable he is a singing in
one crucial sequence). Anna
Friel, a very infectious and attractive screen presence, does her job as
competently as possible, which means that she has to keep a resolute and
straight face throughout all of Ferrell and McBride’s carnival-like
antics, serve as Chaku’s interpreter, look dolefully into Marshall’s
eyes, and – thankfully – look really good in tiny little shorts and a
revealing tank top. She
facilitates herself as a half-baked love interest for Marshall, which
never is really developed, but after sitting through 90 minutes of talk
about tachyon-harnessing time warps, quantum paleontology, show tune
loving pterodactyls, salivating lizard people, and how Matt Lauer – to
quote Marshall – can “suck it”, you kind of just have to go with the film.
After awhile, I found myself uncontrollably laughing too much to
Conceited and intellectually priggish critics have complained that LAND OF THE LOST is unforgivably dumb and too aggressively strange to be worth one’s time. Well…call me (as Matt Lauer would) "out of my freakin' mind"...but of course it’s dumb and weird…and gloriously so. Here’s a film that stockpiles the silliness and sequences of uninhibited craziness like it were going out of style and it maintains a level of free-wheeling, jubilant, throw caution to the wind energy and that just kind of grew on me. The film is not as sloppy and ill-conceived as many have let on: If anything, it’s a modest triumph of whacked out ribaldry, and it certainly demonstrates how a supremely gifted – and uninhibited – funny man like Ferrell can elevate what could have been a pure, B-grade level TV adaptation. Not every scene is comically assured (a unruly and annoyingly long sequence involving Ferrell and McBride in a drugged out stupor from some toxic coconut drink goes on forever and is drawn out to inane lengths), but the film hits a strong hilarity quotient often enough for a recommendation. A film as perplexing and abnormally offbeat like LAND OF THE LOST needs a similar performance sensibility to channel it. Ferrell does just that in spades.
The rest of the critics can "suck it."
If there is one truly negative aspect of LAND OF THE LOST then it would be its shameless and somewhat fraudulent advertising campaign - in TV commercials and in film trailers - as a kid-friendly film.
Far from it. LAND OF THE LOST has been rated PG-13 for "crude and sexual content, foul language, and drug references." This is most certainly not a family film: parents be warned.