As far as cashing in on Gen-X nostalgia goes, a big-screen version of Land of the Lost seems like such an obvious choice it's hard to believe it's taken this long for it to happen. And since movie producers believe that movie stars plus a built-in audience will invariably result in a blockbuster, here we have Will Ferrell and Danny McBride bringing their unique brand of bawdy buffoonery to an affectionate parody/tribute to Marshall, Will, and Holly.
Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a quantum paleontologist who has been discredited in the scientific world due to his strident belief in time travel as the cure for all of humanity's problems. After hitting an all-time low, giving a lecture to elementary school kids, Dr. Marshall meets an ambitious young scientist named Holly (Anna Friel), who tells him she has followed all his work and believes he's a genius. Spurred on by her enthusiasm, he finishes building the device that will allow him to time travel -- something he promptly does along with Holly, and white-trash fireworks salesman Will (Danny McBride), after Will leads them into a cave that seems like a promising place to test the new machine. They end up in a world full of dinosaurs, sand, and scary lizard-like creatures known as Sleestacks. They quickly lose the machine that brought them to this alternate universe, and if they ever want to return home, the trio must recover it with the help of Chaka (Jorma Taccone), the monkey-like friend they make in this strange place.
And boy does this Land of the Lost look unique. Although it's obvious that the producers spent a ton of money on special effects, everything from the costumes to the sets has an inherently cheesy quality in keeping with the spirit of the original low-budget TV show. Visually, the movie is a loving, if teasing, homage to the source material.
As intriguing as it all looks, though, the movie never clicks. The comedic tone is just too wishy-washy; in order to avoid an R rating, Ferrell and McBride are forced to pull their comedic punches. At one point, Dr. Marshall mouths "f*ck you" to Chaka -- in order to keep a PG-13 rating, they can't actually say the mother of all dirty words out loud. It's just one of many moments that make the film far too strong, content wise, for little kids. However, because the moviemakers want to avoid a less profitable R rating, they never take the comedic reins off of their leading men. Ferrell successfully modulated his schtick for a family-friendly audience in Elf, but McBride only has one mode of operation -- compulsive vulgarity. To make these casting choices work, the movie screams out for an R rating. Instead, we're treated to a string of dick jokes, boob jokes, sex jokes, and drug jokes all neutered to the point of blandness. It always feels like the actors are asking themselves "Am I going too far?" as opposed to "Am I being funny?"
If director Brad Silberling had taken this cast to their natural extremes, he might have delivered a raucously funny sci-fi comedy -- think Anchorman meets Jurassic Park. Instead, Land of the Lost is an utter misfire -- not bad enough to hate, not good enough to remember.
cast-crew for Land of the Lost on AllMovie
Land of the Lost (2009)