Somebody keep Will Ferrell away from big screen television show adaptations. Please. If Bewitched was any indication, filmmakers should have seen the disaster that is Land of the Lost coming... but Hollywood executives haven't exactly shown that they learn from their mistakes. Land of the Lost, now available on DVD, was one of the summer's biggest flops - the $100 million film made less than half of that in theaters, and was Will Ferrell's lowest major opener of his career. Given the final product, it's not much of a surprise.
Based on the children's television show of the same name, Land of the Lost reworks the characters and adds in more risqué humor to appeal to a PG-13 audience. The move was a wise one for financial reasons, but director Brad Silberling and writers Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas fail to make anything else worthwhile. The result is a not-so-funny, not-so-entertaining sci-fi adventure film that unsuccessfully straddles the line between action and comedy.
Ferrell plays a scientist who, after years of being scorned for his outrageous theories of parallel universes, develops the technology to prove his critics wrong. He teams up with an attractive researcher (Anna Friel) and an idiot amusement park operator (Danny McBride) to venture into the unknown, but the unknown is a place full of aliens, dinosaurs and other weird things. They find themselves in a race against time to get back home.
Land of the Lost isn't as horrible as one would expect. There are some funny moments, and enough zany things scattered throughout to keep one's attention. Danny McBride, as often is the case, is the highlight of the film; his sarcastic, straight-to-the-point lines are pretty funny. The movie has a fast pace - I could think of far worse ways to spend an hour and a half.
That being said... Land of the Lost isn't that good, either. It isn't particularly funny even though it tries to be; Will Ferrell once again shows that if you attempt to subdue his one-note style of humor he isn't that effective, and he isn't that effective here. He evokes a few laughs here and there, but for the most part it would have made sense to cast someone else in the lead role. Perhaps someone with a little more acting range. Friel, who was deliciously perfect in "Pushing Daisies," is distractingly bad in Land of the Lost; her character is there for her boobs, nothing more.
What really kills the movie, though, is that it isn't clear what target audience Silberling was aiming for. Had I made this movie, I would have gone the more serious route, delivering a sci-fi action adventure film. As is, Land of the Lost is a movie made for kids - but with humor designed for grownups. The combination doesn't work. The special effects aren't very good, though had this movie been made for kids they'd be perfectly acceptable. There's nothing thrilling about the various dinosaur attacks, which makes one wonder why Silberling even bothered to do any action sequences; after all, if they don't get your adrenaline going, what's the point?
Land of the Lost isn't a complete wreck, but its lackluster delivery on every front fails to inspire. The film is lost from minute one - crappy pun intended - and if you didn't laugh at that, you probably won't find much to enjoy in Land of the Lost. And if you did... well, you have other issues to deal with.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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