If you’re a child of the ‘70s and ‘80s, you probably remember the cheeky and cheesy Sid and Marty Kroft syndicated TV series "Land of the Lost," which featured a family thrown back in time in a dinosaur-filled land. It was altogether pleasant, harmless Saturday-morning entertainment geared for the younger set. Fast-forward to 2009 and to the big screen Will Ferrell-led parody remake, and "Land of the Lost" has become a special-effects laden, painfully unfunny piece of junk thrown upon the movie masses. In spite of Ferrell’s usual goofball charm and some realistic dinosaurs, this one crashes and burns quickly. Consider "Land of the Lost" this summer’s first big disappointment.
On his latest expedition, Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) is sucked into a space-time vortex with his time machine, his research assistant Holly (Anna Friel) and redneck survivalist (Danny McBride) Will. In this alternate universe, the trio befriend a kindly primate named Chaka (Jorma Taccone), their only ally in a crazy world full of dinosaurs and other fantastic, unusual creatures. They must find and use Dr. Marshall’s time machine to get back to their own world before an evil Sleestak threatens to take over the universe.
Fans of the TV series will be thoroughly dissatisfied with this mediocre big screen version of "Land of the Lost" – intended as a spoof – but anyway you look at it, it’s still a pointless, unfocused and expensive mess. The funniest single scene of the movie comes at the beginning as Ferrell’s bumbling doctor is being interviewed by "Today’s" Matt Lauer but it goes downhill from there when Rick, Holly and Will (a family in the original, a group of unrelated acquaintances here) are transported to another time, another place, leaving the audience searching for any genuine laughs.
The parody premise isn’t a bad one given how seriously the TV series took itself, how cheaply it was produced but still managed to engage an audience. This version of "Land of the Lost" reverses that. A costly, expensive production, it hardly takes itself serious, yet it still fails to entertain. What’s the problem then? Maybe it’s the uneven direction by "Lemony Snicket’s" Brad Silberling, or the unoriginal, pointless script from TV writers Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas that lacks cleverness. Or maybe it’s Ferrell’s fault, who’s a genuinely funny guy, but whose self-aware, loony sort of humor falls flat here (he pours creature urine on himself and runs around a lot…um, not funny). Honestly, it’s a little bit of all the above. The director, writers and star never quite get a handle on "Land of the Lost" and the movie veers off into too many directions, losing what could’ve been a clever, sharply-witted satire.
Clearly designed to ride on Ferrell’s charm, "Land of the Lost" wastes most of those around him too. The pretty Friel comes across rather empty and the usually hilarious McBride, seen to good effect in "Pineapple Express" and "Tropic Thunder," seems a little stifled here. Taccone, a "Saturday Night Live" writer and producer whose responsible for some of those wickedly amusing digital shorts with Andy Samberg, seems to be the only one enjoying himself (he and Ferrell also have a couple of humorous exchanges).
Not all is lost, no pun intended, on "Land of the Lost." The creatures are frightfully intense and far more realistic than the series, but largely an afterthought. Those evil Sleestaks are another story, who come across as too rubbery in this version (which may be the point, but it still doesn’t work). A nice tidbit: listen closely for the voice of "Star Trek’s" Leonard Nimoy as a sleestak who may be good or bad.
By the time "Land of the Lost" stumbles onto its predictable climax, you’ll realize what an unsatisfying experience it’s been. Ferrell fans will still come out to see it in its first week, and hopefully pass the word along that his movie stinks. Don’t waste your money, as there are many other better movies out there (see "Up" instead) that will provide a far more pleasurable cinematic experience than "Land of the Lost."