"Land of the Lost" Movie Review
Independent Films, Interviews
Like stepping into a snazzy but clunky time machine ride, “Land of the Lost” leaves its 70s TV-show roots behind and travels full-speed ahead to the future to transform into a multi-million dollar big-screen production.
Marshall, Will, and Holly return tagging along their ape-boy pal Chaka. The dinosaurs also make a comeback, so do the slow but creepy reptilians called Sleestak. The big question remains – do we really need a “Land of the Lost” reboot? Apparently, show creators Sid and Marty Krofft think so. They’re behind this mildly entertaining and mindless special effects extravaganza.
Updating the show’s special effects may be the only driving force behind this movie makeover. I remember the stodgy dinosaur claymation of the 70s series. But as a child, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. With the big screen version, you know it’s in trouble when Matt Lauer (yeah, the “Today Show” anchorman) eclipses the film’s star, Will Ferrell.
Ferrell stars as has-been scientist Dr. Rick Marshall. He’s a discredited quantum paleontologist (a made-up practice that blends particle physics with the study of dinosaurs) who has been banished by the academic world for his unsupported belief in an alternate universe.
The only person who believes in him is Holly played by Anna Friel (“Pushing Daisies”). In the original TV show, Holly is an American pre-teen, now, she’s a British student kicked out from Cambridge University for her defense of Marshall’s theory.
When they first meet, Marshall proceeds to unveil his Tachyon Meter to Holly. The apparatus is supposed to amplify tachyon – particles that travel faster than light. In order to test the Tachyon Meter, the two go to the Devil’s Canyon Mystery Cave, a place where unexplained findings have been unearthed.
There, Marshall and Holly meet Will Stanton (the underused Danny McBride). In the original show, Will is a teenage boy, now he’s a redneck survivalist. Together, the trio goes on a routine expedition where they meet the greatest earthquake ever known that strikes their tiny raft and plunges them down a thousand feet below to the land of the lost.
I used to be freaked out by the Pakuni ape-boy Chaka (played in the movie by Jorma Taccone). Now, I just find the character subtly annoying. The script by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas gave Chaka an identity crisis. Is he a scheming foe or a trusted friend?
Indeed, character development has been forgotten in pursuit of comedy and adventure. It appears that the filmmakers hoped and prayed for your familiarity with the show’s dynamics. The character that was given special attention and narrative arc is Grumpy, the vengeful T-Rex. Hence, the dinosaur stole the show.
There’s even homage given to “The Wizard of Oz” with the appearance of the Altrusian Enik (John Boylan). The Altrusians possess advanced technologies based on light crystals and understand a great deal about the operation of the land of the lost.
Directed by Brad Silberling (“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”), the comedy is hit or miss. My favorite scene is a psychedelic-induced party between Marshall, Will, and Chaka. It was an inspired scene where the comic riffs between the actors actually worked.
I also like the allusion given to Broadway’s “A Chorus Line.” Every time Marshall turns on the Tachyon Meter, the song “I Hope I Get It” plays as if singing the character’s wishes to finally prove his invention is successful.
In the end, “Land of the Lost” is banal at best, aggravating at worst. Ferrell tries hard to anchor the film but is upstaged by a sassy dinosaur and a sassier Matt Lauer. Even a cameo appearance from the great Leonard Nimoy (he plays The Zarn) cannot uplift this film from a 2 kisses rating.
Year of Production: 2009
Country: United States