28 July 2009

Movie Review: Land of the Lost


Land of the Lost
2009, 101mins, PG-13
Director: Brad Silberling
Writer (s): Chris Henchy, Dennis McNicholas,
Cast includes: Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone, John Boylan
Release Date: 5th June 2009

Land of the Lost” has been victim to some hefty and venomous criticisms since release, the movie’s epic box-office failure only later confirming it as a hardcore dud. Based on a 1970’s kiddie adventure show of the same name, “Land of the Lost” is no classic but its mixture of effects wizardry, visual creativeness and comedic assurance are admirable and thus it’s hard to fathom where all the hate is coming from. The movie runs out of creative juices before the unsatisfying finish and some tit bits seem robbed from better pictures but overall I found “Land of the Lost” an affable slice of summer escapism, nicely dressed up in a generous $100 million budget.

Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) is the laughing stock of the science world, his theories involving “time warps” and “parallel dimensions” having isolated him to the level of part time school teacher. However a long time fan named Holly (Anna Friel) visits Marshall in the hope that he will give his ideas one last chance and so in a final bid to prove himself Marshall takes out on a final field test of his concepts with Holly and redneck Will (Danny McBride). The trio are transported back to a different dimension just as Marshall anticipated, one filled with weird creatures and remnants of many lost civilizations. They befriend a primate like creature called Chaka (Jorma Taccone) but in contrast Marshall angers the resident T-Rex, causing the animal to relentlessly pursue our heroes across the map. However the real problem is getting home an outcome only possible with the co-operation of Enik (John Boylan) the exiled leader of the lizard like creatures known as Sleestak.

“Land of the Lost” is a silly film but not so juvenile or immature as to be unappealing. Your reaction to the picture will no doubt ride in line with your feelings towards leading man Ferrell, if his style of buffoonery and beyond random riffing doesn’t do it for you, then this is an enterprise best left avoided. For me Ferrell is one of the top comedic actors in Hollywood and so his participation is a bona fide plus, even if he doesn’t attempt anything particularly new or inventive. He manages to play solidly to man-child type with occasionally hysterical results but for a comedy mind as fertile as Ferrell’s it sometimes seems likes he’s on autopilot. The ingenious improvisation still hits the spot but ultimately Rick Marshall is just Ron Burgundy with a little added Steve Irwin. Danny McBride matches Ferrell pound for pound in this wacked out laugh chase whilst Anna Friel is as dashing and genial as ever in the form of Marshall’s unlikely love interest. The cast are a big reason why I warmed to “Land of the Lost”, Jorma Taccone’s Chaka is disappointing, but the others concoct a nice chemistry and offer solid footing for the multi million dollar shenanigans.

Brad Silberling who is responsible for the like of “Casper” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events” doesn’t really display a knack for directing straight forward comedy but now is apparently very comfortable in the realms of CGI and lavish visuals. The dimension conjured up in “Land of the Lost” is a delicious piece of eye candy, all tripped out imagery and random assortments of past civilizations. “Land of the Lost” is a pretty goofy and light hearted summer effort and so any sort of bleak or morbid atmosphere is rightfully neglected in favour of cherry-bomb set-pieces and a bubbly colour palette. The dinosaurs, in particular “Grumpy the T-Rex, are fantastically rendered whilst a throwback to the original show is evident in the fact the Sleestak are still clearly men in rubber suits. I was mightily impressed with Silberling’s visual composition in “Land of the Lost”, the style and occasional references at least are undeniably well judged additions to this energetic cocktail.

The script brings the laughs with reasonable success but sadly the narrative can’t sustain the same level. The story is thin from start to finish but toward the end it descends into a distracting and unsure mess, predictable and hastily jumbled together. Given the movies simple aims of entertaining the audience I can forgive the so-so plotting in the first two segments, delicious improvisation and some cool Dinosaur based sequences keeping the momentum at a smoking high. However come the finish the film starts to not only recycle other movies in a nervous mash-up of a conclusion but also a few ideas of its own. It’s sad that the final fifteen minutes of “Land of the Lost” fall into such joyless territory but sadly that seems to have been the sacrifice for adapting the questionable TV product in the first place. Plus the Sleestak subplot is considerably less enjoyable than the other elements of the movie yet inevitably that’s where the screenplay ends up focusing most of its energy.

“Land of the Lost” is far from great filmmaking and probably won’t warrant much in the way of repeat viewings but for most of its runtime there are comedic and blockbusting positives to be mined. The picture has been rightfully criticised for bringing a little too much sexual content and innuendo to the family feature table and maybe it’s this slight lapse in tonal balance which can be accredited with the film’s disappointing box-office receipts. None the less I do hope “Land of the Lost” finds a little more love on DVD because as a Friday night rental it’s definitely an agreeable and borderline recommended property.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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