06 June 2009

At the movies: Land of the Lost.


The kind of mess that can only come from an established brand name and a movie star with too much clout for their own good, Land of the Lost is almost worthwhile as an example of big-budget filmmaking with no clear purpose. Sid and Marty Krofft, who created the 70s television show that gives rise to this strange effort, helped produce this new film version, and in the interest of full disclosure, they succeed in recapturing the "what the?" vibe of that show.

With a few tweaks here and there, we find Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell, unbound by directorial restraint or the slightest hint of taste), a disgraced scientist with a radical theory reagrding spacetime, colliding with the lovely Holly (Anna Friel), a former Oxford student whose interest in Marshall's theories have gotten her drummed out of that venerable institution. Together, they seek to utilize tachyon energy to open a stable timewarp and avenge Marshall's humiliation at the hands of Matt Lauer.

When they find themselves, along with fireworks salesman and would-be entrepreneur Will Stanton (national treasure Danny McBride), in a pocket dimension populated by dinosaurs, primates, big bugs, and the lizardlike Sleestak, then we're still in keeping with the overall tone of Krofft's previous vision. But there's so much sexual innuendo, poo humor (though not as much, strangely enough, as in the truly execrable My Life in Ruins), drug talk, and casual swears that one begins to wonder if there hadn't been some horrible miscommunication in the making of the film.

There's something genial about this film, an 'anything goes' sensibility that goes a long way in establishing some sort of contract between the viewer and the viewed. Much of that comes from McBride, who elevates much of the material he's given, and production designer Bo Welch, whose sets and critters are so nifty and enthralling that I can almost forgive him for directing 2003's cinematic crime against humanity The Cat in The Hat. Farrell is uneven, sometimes excruciating, sometimes inspired.

Make no mistake, Land of the Lost is, at best, a mental margarita. Any time I started getting superannoyed with it, they would throw in an interspecies polysexual three-way or bring back "I Hope I Get It," from A Chorus Line, which is certainly unexpected and appreciated. But it's not consistent (or transgressive) enough to be truly special, though I expect it will have a long and weird videostore life.

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