In 1974, Land of the Lost was a scrappy, heartfelt Sid & Marty Krofft series that aired Saturday mornings on CBS, a weekly case study in how to wring every last penny out of a tight TV budget and somehow manage to create a few poignant moments out of a few bales of chicken wire, some papier-mÃ¢chÃ©, and a closet full of dinosaur puppets. As with all things Krofft, the aroma of cheese was often overpowering, but Land of the Lost‘s uniquely oversized mythology set it apart from anything else on the Saturday morning dial, and helped the show earn an enduring cult following.
In 2009, Land of the Lost was a crappy, overblown Will Ferrell movie that tanked at the box office, suffered the wrath of critics, and even earned a condemnation from the American Medical Association for daring to show Ferrell’s character holding a pipe — a case study in how to take $100 million and piss it away on all the wrong things. In a deeply ironic twist, the new Lost is twice as cheesy, half as entertaining, and infinitely more expensive than the old one. Gotta love Hollywood, right?
The show, for those of you who don’t remember, related the adventures of scientist Rick Marshall and his kids, Holly and Will, following their accidental deposit in a strange parallel dimension that almost (but not quite) resembled prehistoric Earth. Because the filmmakers were smart enough to realize that Will Ferrell needs at least a PG-13 rating to be the least bit funny — and because it isn’t a Ferrell film unless his gross, fumbling sexual advances are being inexplicably accepted by a woman far more attractive than he is — there are no kids here; instead, Ferrell’s Rick Marshall is joined by a fellow scientist named Holly (played by Anna Friel) and a hygienically deprived gift shop owner named Will (played by a clearly coasting Danny McBride).
Love him or hate him, Ferrell is very good at playing self-righteous morons, and his shtick, as one-note as it tends to be, is flexible enough that you can make an easy $100 million just by dropping that character into a ridiculous situation and letting him run with it. Will Ferrell on TV? Anchorman. Will Ferrell driving a racecar? Talladega Nights. Will Ferrell on ice skates, for the love of God? Blades of Glory. You get the idea, and so did Universal: pitting Ferrell against dinosaurs and lizard men had all the makings of a lowbrow home run. They could almost get away with simply letting the cameras roll.
Which is essentially what director Brad Silberling did, stitching together his Land of the Lost from a series of barely connected (and seemingly barely scripted) skits. There’s a nominal plot, sure, but it exists only as a prop for holding up a barrage of gags. I tend to enjoy Ferrell, and I laughed a few times during the movie — I defy you not to at least chuckle at the sight of Matt Lauer spraying Ferrell in the face with a fire extinguisher, for instance — but by the time Ferrell and McBride wake up from a hallucinogenic bender on the desert floor, spooning with Chaka the apeman, you’re apt to have long since checked out. And not only is it not funny, it’s barely even connected to the show: Despite the presence of the Kroffts, who served as producers, Lost is literally just a Will Ferrell movie with dinosaurs. You get your total boob (Ferrell), a male foil who’s almost as stupid as he is (McBride), and the aforementioned female character with inexplicable man-child fetish (Friel). Screenwriters Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas seem to have been operating under the assumption that if Step Brothers could break $185 million, a movie with a sweet CGI Tyrannosaurus Rex would have to make twice as much no matter how lame it is. Thankfully, they were wrong, but you have to feel bad for all the longtime fans who hoped in vain for a film adaptation that captured the essence of the show. This didn’t need to be a Land of the Lost movie — they could have just called it Caveman Will and it probably would have earned just as much.
Matter of fact, they probably could have skimped on the special effects, too; unlike a lot of big-screen duds, Land of the Lost doesn’t benefit from the transition to the home market, because even if it has the middling quality that’s the hallmark of a brainless rental, its visuals are so expensive-looking that they’re actually intrusive. Watching it feels like watching money burn, and it’s more than a little disconcerting.
If you make it to the end of the movie and you’re still somehow in the mood for more, the Land of the Lost Blu-ray comes loaded with a fairly hefty chunk of bonus material, including deleted scenes, an interview with the Kroffts that does not contain the question “Why did you do this?” or any screaming, a whopping 83-minute making-of documentary, a commentary track from Silberling, and a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes hosted by McBride, who should be ashamed of himself. The disc is also enabled for D-Box, which is, sadly, not a box for imprisoning the dicks responsible for this film, but instead simulates motion and other crap via a special chair. Like the movie itself, it’s a stupid waste of potentially useful technology.
I can’t imagine a scenario in which someone would want to spend $27.99 to own this film, but if you fit that description, you can at least take comfort in the knowledge that Land of the Lost looks and sounds great, and includes enough added features to keep you stranded with Ferrell and his partners in crime for several hours. You’d be better off just donating the money to a charity and punching yourself in the head for 90 minutes, but to each his own.