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Review: Land of the Lost

Will Ferrell bottoms out
By PETER KEOUGH  |  June 3, 2009
1.0 1.0 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Land of the Lost

Land of the Lost | Directed by Brad Silberling | Written By Chris Henchy + Dennis McNicholas Based on the series by Sid + Marty Krofft | with Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel and Jorma Taccone | Universal Pictures | 106 minutes
Would that a time machine actually existed that could somehow restore the 106 minutes spent watching Land of the Lost. Maybe Will Ferrell would be interested in investing in one also, not to mention Danny McBride and Matt Lauer. Even Lauer deserves a better fate than to watch his career die at the hands of Brad Silbering.

That's not all that Silbering has to answer for, however. For some reason he's determined to literally shit all over some of the most ingenuous relics of childhood television viewing. He managed to take that icon of inane cartoon innocence, Casper (1995), and transform it into loathsome, sappy ectoplasm. True, the 1974 TV series Land of the Lost is no Casper the Friendly Ghost, but despite the silly premise and pitiful effects (which the film, at times, makes "fun" of), it possessed a fragile, childish magic. Even a master of irony and tone and comic timing would be hard-pressed to turn such good-natured nonsense into a parody. So maybe it's just as well that someone devoid of any of those attributes took charge and reduced it to a PG-13 pot of ersatz dinosaur piss, which is also one of the film's more redolent images.

Lost is not a total waste, however. Ferrell and McBride do manage to extricate some genuinely funny moments from the tortured script by Chris Henchy (he wrote "special material" for the 74th Annual Academy Awards) and Dennis McNicholas (a writer for SNL, which might explain the show's decline). A lot of punishment must be endured before getting there, though, and maybe these moments seem funny by joyful contrast to the awful material in between.

The whole buildup, for example, will drive many to the exits. Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall (the name is about the only element retained from the TV show), a scientist who claims to have solved the energy crisis by inventing a process for traveling to alternative universes. After Lauer humiliates him on the Today show, he ends up teaching science to grade school students, which is where Holly (Anna Friel), a British scientist who has faith in his theories, finds him. She encourages him to complete the device, and they are sucked into a time warp along with Will ( McBride), a "redneck souvenirist," and deposited in a place where "past, present, and future mash up together" — a desert of pointless tackiness that is perhaps meant as metaphor for Hollywood.

Are you laughing yet? Because there is still a long way to go. In fact, at this point Lost is almost worth watching, as the set designers have thrown together a Dali-esque world where random artifacts like Amelia Earhart's plane, a crashed flying saucer, and a Bob's Big Boy restaurant jut from the dunes. Meanwhile, Silberling tries to match this pop-cultural grab bag with references to movies such as 2001 and Planet of the Apes. An allusion to Mysterious Island combined with intoxicated male bonding involving a hominid named Chaka (Jorma Taccone) allows McBride and Ferrell to revert to the improvised hilarity they brought to Pineapple Express and Talladega Nights, respectively. Otherwise, like the sparrow-sized mosquito that lands on Ferrell's neck in what rivals the dinosaur–urine schtick as the film's most disgusting scene, Land of the Lost really sucks.

Related: Review: Up In the Air, Review: The Other Guys, Review: The Cartel, More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Will Ferrell, Will Ferrell, Anna Friel,  More more >
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