Land of the Lost
Release Date: June 5, 2009
Cast: Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel
By Sean Chavel
Will Ferrell is playing the same character again. The narcissistic know-it-all who always insists that every way has to be done his way. The know-it-all who sees that others are wrong and that he’s the uncontested expert on whatever the role occupies (soccer coach, pro basketball player, ice skater). "Land of the Lost" is another of those Ferrell comedies that lets you chew on the familiar: You can count on one scene of Ferrell stripping to his underwear and letting his gloriously protruding gut stick out, and one scene of Ferrell gorging to the extreme on fatty foods, and one scene of Ferrell singing along to a gay show tune. That last one might be a new one in the actor’s canon but it’s not a surprise to see him go for it. Um… Maybe it’s not new.
In this crash back-in-time comedy Ferrell is Dr. Rick Marshall, a paleontologist who finds a time warp to a dinosaur age. By his side is the attractive and brainy Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) and redneck Will Stanton (Danny McBride). While lost they make friends with a primate named Cha-ka (Jorma Taccone) who likes touching Holly’s bosom. The set designs, particularly those habitats occupied by the Sleestak reptile people portrayed by actors in obviously fake latex, all have a cheesy grandeur. The sets are similar but more synthetic than an Indiana Jones adventure, and they certainly have the sanitized quality of a fun park attraction.
All of this drooling cheese production values is intentional, and perversely, it makes the movie into expensive-looking schlock. The appearance of a predatory T-rex is as lively as it ever was in a “Jurassic Park” movie, and if the movie is trying to make a case for being “up-to-date” it succeeds there. The attack of the spiders scene is not as digitally flawless, as you never believe that they are actually crawling up and down Ferrell’s body. But hopefully the jug of dinosaur pee was actually an apple juice prop substitute (Sorry, I was attempting something that the movie never attempts. Dry humor.)
Through deserts and valleys and jungles and caverns and mythical chambers, Ferrell’s ragtag band remains in search of their time travel machine so they can return home. Plot stuffing requires that they get caught up in the matters of the Pakuni, which is just fine if you think monkey people are funny. And why not? Cha-ka proves that he has the same basic drives as man – sex, food and shelter possibly in that precise order. That’s what you could call primal humor. Everything points towards an epic battle climax, and because this is a comedy, it has to be a slapstick battle. Which here is the case.
“Land of the Lost,” based on a high-camp 1974 television series that ran three years, is hardly what you’d call original Hollywood moviemaking. The cleverest thing it has going for it is a wormhole that collects random objects from the distant future (at one point an ice cream truck lands which causes T-rex fervor to eat the ice cream man). However, the wormhole and the movie itself, never goes for inspiration beyond. You know what you are going to get. Note the celebration “get-high” scene an exception.
You swear by your heart that you like familiar-feeling Will Ferrell comedies, and if that’s the case you’ll likely be able to sit through this one and come out with a dumb slap on your face. Danny McBride is becoming the go-to guy for crude and swaggering supporting characters and he sticks to his modus operandi even in a broad family comedy. Anna Friel is a warm-hearted female sidekick who is cut out of a Brooke Burke fashion special but also has the chops to outwit the men around her. These three share an oil-and-vinegar chemistry. Then there is Matt Lauer of the Today show, in a two-scene cameo who gets to go after Dr. Rick Marshall in the way he never got to do with Tom Cruise – a stranglehold.
“Land of the Lost?” I’m not asking anybody to put it up on a pedestal or anything, but don’t be hating it too much. For a standard-formula Will Ferrell comedy I’m calling it a near-miss. Now if it wanted to add an element of surprise they could have hired that actor from the Dos Equis beer commercials to be a fourth human character. Ferrell could have used somebody like the Most Interesting Man Alive character to bump his mock arrogance up against.