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Land of the Lost (2009) Dir. Brad Silberling 7 August 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Cinema Review.
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After receiving a critical and commercial drumming Will Ferrell’s update of the much loved (in the States at least) Sid and Marty Krofft ‘70s kids show has made its way over to UK shores, and though it’s not quite as bad as some have made out it’s far from a success and may well prove to be the most forgettable film of the summer.

It’s a shame really because I have to admit to an irrational love for Will Ferrell. Anchorman is clearly a work of genius and I even found a few laughs in the otherwise lamentable Semi-Pro, but here his talents are wasted. It’s telling when the bookends to your film, which have nothing to do with the main plot (in this case Ferrell’s Dr. Rick Marshall being humiliated on a talk show), are funnier than the whole 90 minutes in-between, but unfortunately that is what we have here.

Marshall is the kind of idiot/genius scientist that can only exist in movies, perfectly capable of inventing a machine to travel along time warps but otherwise with the mental capacity of a four year old. After inventing said machine (the Tachyon Convertor) he, fellow scientist/admirer Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel in a role which requires her to be little more than eye candy, only memorable for letting her speak in her native accent) and tour guide Will Stanton (The Foot Fist Way’s brilliant Danny McBride) are whisked away to the titular Land, a mesh of past, present and future with remnants of our world dotted about the landscape from ice cream trucks to dinosaurs. In order to get home the group must find the Tachyon Convertor, lost on the journey in, and close the doorway to our dimension, thus preventing the universe-conquering race of Sleestaks from taking over our world.

The first thing that struck me when the credits rolled was just how predictable and forgettable it all was. The story is basic to say the least, playing out more like a series of sketches with a loose narrative thread rather than a ripping yarn, and there are enough plot holes/inconsistencies to infuriate anyone paying even the slightest level of attention. The effects work is borderline shoddy in places and the set pieces have none of the scope and scale a $100 million update should. Some have argued this was an intentional decision by the film makers to replicate the same low budget feel of the show, but if this was the case why not reduce the budget accordingly because what made it to the screen certainly doesn’t look like $100 million.

Creature design is largely a success, with the costumed Sleestak lizard men looking particularly great, but again CGI characters suffer from the inferior work on display here. The T-Rex is barely an improvement on the one in the 15-year-old Jurassic Park for example, which is unforgivable. It might have been tricky but the makers would have been well served to stick to their low budget roots and do it all practically, at least it would have given the film a unique identity.

Ferrell, Friel and McBride are all perfectly watchable but unfortunately bring little to their roles beyond surface level charm. Ferrell in particular lets the side down with his obvious improvising generating few of the laughs you would expect, and he just doesn’t fit the hero role well. I was also surprised at the levels of swearing, sex and drug references that litter the film, it had to be cut to escape an R rating in America, and I can’t help but wonder why the makers would push it so far, it all seems so horribly out of place. That is perhaps the film’s main problem, it just doesn’t know who it’s aimed at and in trying to please both a young and 20-something audience it fails to satisfy either.

But don’t let this put you off entirely, there is a certain amount of fun to be had with Land of the Lost and those bookends are almost worth the ticket price alone, but fans of Ferrell will be disappointed that it just isn’t funny enough while genre fans will find little that is new or entertaining. Chalk another one up for the disappointing summer of 2009.

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