News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 3, 2009

‘Land of the Lost,’ is just that

By Christy Lemire

HOLLYWOOD — There is exactly one funny bit in “Land of the Lost,” and it stands out because it comes at the very beginning and the very end.

Will Ferrell, as arrogant scientist Dr. Rick Marshall, appears on the “Today” show to discuss his time-travel theories and promote his latest book. Matt Lauer, thinking he’s a crackpot, interviews him with unmistakable disdain and chafes at Marshall’s attempts to hijack the segment. (Lauer’s deadpan comic timing is great, by the way. Maybe he should think about a career in acting if this TV thing doesn’t work out.)

In between these two scenes, though, is an awkward combination of kitschy comedy (which is never amusing) and earnest action (which is never thrilling). And it’s not as if the source material was worthy of a big-budget summer blockbuster starring an A-lister like Ferrell.

The Sid & Marty Krofft TV series “Land of the Lost,” about a family that gets sucked into a prehistoric age when an earthquake hits while they’re rafting — “the greatest earthquake ever known,” as the theme song goes — aired for just three seasons in the mid-1970s. It was laughable with its stiff dialogue and low-tech effects.

At least the series knew what it was. Working from a script by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas (though Ferrell and co-star Danny McBride clearly did a healthy amount of improv), director Brad Silberling can’t seem to decide whether he’s making fun of the show’s cheesy visuals or seizing on its sense of roughhewn adventure. And so in hopes of pleasing the lowest common denominator nonetheless, all these people offer an overload of jokes about dinosaur poop and urine.

Holly (Anna Friel) is no longer Marshall’s fresh-faced daughter but a brainy British research assistant who happens to look sexy in a wife-beater tank top and short shorts. Will, who was Marshall’s son, is a redneck who runs the tourist trap that becomes the inadvertent portal to the past. (McBride attacks the role with his patented brand of Southern, mulleted brashness.)

And Chaka (“Saturday Night Live” writer Jorma Taccone), who was merely a mischievous primate before, is now a shameless horndog who repeatedly fondles Holly’s breasts and even finds himself attracted to Marshall’s manhood. The joke doesn’t work even once.

The plot consists of our trio running from dinosaurs and trying to find a way back home. Chaka sort of tries to help. Sometimes they run into the menacing Sleestaks, in their obviously rubbery reptilian costumes, stomping around like zombies and hissing a lot (they were scary when we were kids, though).

Also hammered into the unexplored ground is a running gag about “A Chorus Line” — a song from the musical keeps blaring from Marshall’s time-traveling contraption — which ultimately allows Marshall to unleash his inner Broadway star. Although the character has his origins elsewhere, this is basically the same guy Ferrell keeps playing over and over. He’s Ron Burgundy in khakis instead of a polyester leisure suit, Ricky Bobby traveling to the past instead of driving in circles.

Talk about your time warps.

“Land of the Lost,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for sexual content. Running time: 96 minutes. One star out of four.



Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:


G — General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.


R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.