Saturday, November 14, 2009

DO NOT visit this Land of the Lost

Land of the Lost (2009)

"Marshall, Will and Holly on a routine expedition met the greatest earthquake ever known...." If you're a child of Saturday morning TV in the 1970s, there's a better than average chance you recognize that theme song.

But it does you little good with this empty-headed, and empty-hearted, big budget Hollywood update.

The original Land of the Lost was a live action kid's show produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, the duo famous for extremely trippy hippie/disco-era shows such as H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. But unlike those programs Land of the Lost was a straight up adventure show, about a father (Rick Marshall) and his two teen kids (Will and Holly) who get trapped in a strange land lost in time and space. The show featured lots of cool science fiction ideas and concepts from luminaries in the field such as Ben Bova, Larry Niven and David Gerrold. You had dimensional portals, time displacement, control towers called pylons (operated by crystals), the Pakuni ("man-apes" with a language devised for the program by a UCLA linguist - how's that for Saturday morning education!), Sleestak (primitive reptile-insectoids), Enik (an advanced ancestor of the Sleestak), aliens, and gravity drives. Oh, and dinosaurs. Lots of dinosaurs.

The show was made on the cheap with chroma-key work (that's how the weatherman gives his report in front of that screen), hand puppet dinosaurs (to alternate with the costly stop motion animation), but what it lacked in budget it made up for in big ideas and lots of heart (similar to the UK's long-running Dr. Who, pre-Christopher Eccleston).

But who needs any of that when you have Will Ferrell and Danny McBride doing their patented stupid idiot and loudmouth moron routines? I used to be a big Will Ferrell fan; I loved his entire run on Saturday Night Live and enjoyed his first few big screen movies. He lost me with Talladega Nights, where his man-child character just became cruel in his treatment of his best friend (John C. Reilly). He carries on that tradition here.

This is a comedy but I didn't laugh much at all. Ferrell's Rick Marshall is supposed to be a scientist (okay a fringe scientist), but he comes across not only as a total idiot but a complete jerk as well - this guy couldn't load an iPod let alone create a machine that opens a doorway in time and space. He's always stupid. When he first meets Chaka (Jorma Taccone from The Lonely Island) in the land of the lost, his first impulse is to tell the man-ape that he is his master and superior. He immediately tries to dominate him. Why would he do this, especially since Holly can fully communicate with Chaka? Of course the answer is just so you could have some lame jokes and then continue to stretch them out later on between the two.

Anna Friel plays grad student Holly pretty much straight. She is NOT an idiot, so why anyone with an ounce of smarts would fall in love with the doofus idiot moron that is Rick Marshall is beyond any sort of belief. Danny McBride, rounding out our lost trio and ostensibly playing Will, plays the Danny McBride character. (Hey, Jack Black, you have a replacement in the wings!) McBride plays a watered-down version of his hilarious Tropic Thunder character, but his schtick is already wearing thin. (Find some more layers Danny, and fast.)

Pick any lame sitcom and it is practically guaranteed to be funnier than this movie, which was rated PG-13 for "crude and sexual content." That's what every big summer comedy/adventure movie made from a kid's show needs: dick, crap and f--- jokes.

Do yourself a real favor and rent the original Land of the Lost. That's real filmmaking there.

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