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Land of the Lost
Will Ferrell takes on another classic TV show.
Land of the Lost
Will Ferrell Stars in "Land of the Lost."
OPENING WEEKEND: $38,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $130,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

March 9th, 2009: Will Ferrell stars as has-been scientist Dr. Rick Marshall, sucked into one and spat back through time. Way back. Now, Marshall has no weapons, few skills and questionable smarts to survive in an alternate universe full of marauding dinosaurs and fantastic creatures from beyond our world - a place of spectacular sights and super-scaled comedy known as the Land of the Lost.

Sucked alongside him for the adventure are crack-smart research assistant Holly (Anna Friel) and a redneck survivalist (Danny McBride) named Will. Chased by T-Rex and stalked by painfully slow reptiles known as Sleestaks, Marshall, Will and Holly must rely on their only ally - a primate called Chaka (Jorma Taccone) to navigate out of the hybrid dimension. Escape from this routine expedition gone awry and they’re heroes. Get stuck, and they'll be permanent refugees in the Land of the Lost.

What to Expect: Let's talk for a moment, you and I, about Will Ferrell.

Will Ferrell is very intelligent. You know how I know that? He's really good at playing dumb, and that isn't easy. I might also cite his uncanny ability to choose projects that perfectly suit him, and to build a brand for himself out of his affable-thickhead routine. And yet, sometimes he breaks out of it and surprises you.

Article continues below

Will Ferrell is an actor that people love or hate. Personally, I'm not a fan, although I absolutely adored him in "Zoolander." But I recognize his comic abilities. He plays a lot of over-the-top characters and usually manages to just hold them back from being annoying. He was surprisingly subtle in "Stranger than Fiction" and I'd really love to see him try his hand at some more dramatic roles. It did wonders for Jim Carrey's career when he broke out of the wacky-guy mold and went serious now and then. Ferrell has practically owned the wacky-sports-movie genre with films like "Talladega Nights," "Blades of Glory" and "Semi-Pro" (I was rather surprised to find out that he wasn't actually in "Dodgeball") If Judd Apatow and Steve Carell are the reigning kings of the adult comedy, then Will Ferrell is the crown prince of the screwball comedy.

I'll not be one of those film writers who looks down her nose at Ferrell's brand of comedy and sneer. People like slapstick. Broad characters can be funny, and Ferrell has the timing and the inoffensive manner to carry them off. And he's such a cipher. Many comedians are pretty much playing themselves all the time, but after seeing a good half-dozen of Ferrell's films, I couldn't begin to tell you what he might be like in person. He could be a loudmouthed party guy or a quiet introvert for all I know.

My wish for him to go serious is not coming true with this movie, anyway. Ferrell's on board for another slapstick romp with this film version of the classic Sid & Marty Krofft show "Land of the Lost." You know the song, sing along. I admit that this show isn't part of my own personal childhood memories. I never watched it. But for millions of people my age, this rather surreal half hour played a key part in their young TV experience, right along with the Smurfs and the New Zoo Revue. The show was a trip, that's for sure, but we'd expect no less from Sid & Marty Krofft. I mean, these are the men who gave us the acid trip full of crazy that was H.R. Pufnstuf. "Land of the Lost" only featured Sleestaks and stop-motion dinosaurs.

It was probably inevitable that the show would be made into a movie. It's all the rage, after all. The number of films made from nostalgic TV shows is staggering, the number of them that have been successful vanishingly small. And yet they keep trying, waiting for all that childhood nostalgia to drive us to the cineplexes in droves, filling their coffers with our hard-earned recession-threatened money. Then again, recent upsurges in box office has suggested that people go to the movies more during hard economic times. It makes some sense, movies are relatively cheap compared to other entertainments like restaurants or concerts, and comedies are doing especially well...people want something to make them smile and escape. A relatively brainless comedy could be just what the doctor ordered. But this one? Or another?

Sid & Marty Krofft did reportedly have some influence on the set of this film, visiting often and consulting on the look and feel. But the film is the product of "Entourage" scribe Chris Henchy and SNL writer Dennis McNicholas. That, to me, is a...troubling combination. SNL writing is notoriously uneven, at times clever and skewering, at others overly broad and crass. "Entourage" is a successful, smartly written show but it would seem to me to be a totally different brand of comedy than what's being aimed for in "Land of the Lost." Then there's the director, Brad Silberling. He's a veteran of many, many TV episodes and not very many films. Those he's made include the oddball family ghost film "Casper" and the semi-autobiographical "Moonlight Mile." His last film was "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which was a successful film, not that its success can be attributed to Silberling's direction. With a resume this disjointed, a picture emerges of a director who'll take his cues externally, from the script or the actors or the concept. He's yet to demonstrate any consistent directorial vision or artistic guidance of his own. He's the kind of director you hire when you need someone who knows where to point the camera but won't interject anything of himself into the project.

So what was the idea with this project? Well, in keeping with his pattern so far, Silberling is taking his cues from the original show. One of the most memorable aspects of the original show were the Sleestaks, lizardlike creatures that threatened the heroes of the show. Classic men-in-rubber-suit type monsters. Many fans wondered if they'd be turned into CGI creatures, how they'd look...well, based on advance publicity, they look pretty much exactly the same as they did on the show. Silberling's been keen to maintain the look of the old show. Some advance clips have features effects so cheesy and poorly executed that most viewers believe it has to be intentionally bad, to keep up the campy atmosphere the Kroffts created on TV.

The plot is a little different, though. The show famously featured a man and his two young children, while the movie will feature three adults, which tells us a little about the filmmaker's desire to veer away from the Saturday afternoon family film crowd. Disgraced and eccentric scientist Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) and his research assistant Holly (Anna Friel), along with survivalist Will (Danny McBride) are sucked back in time to the Land of the Lost, filled with dinosaurs and peril and no doubt plenty of opportunities for pratfalls and general silliness. The hijinks, they ensue.

Ferrell has expressed dissatisfaction before with how his films have come out. Of "Kicking and Screaming," he was hoping that the film would be a biting "Bad News Bears" style comedy, as the film was written, but the studio diluted it and turned it into a PG-rated snoozefest. He was eager for the same fate not to befall "Land of the Lost," and has been quoted characterizing the film as PG-13, skating right up to the edge of R, so perhaps the film will have something of an edge to it. There's some hints that Ferrell may be tiring of his own schtick. He and Vince Vaughn have been approached with a script for a sequel to "Old School," but Ferrell isn't so keen to just repeat the same old same old. According to him, "Elf 2" is dead as well. One film that Ferrell was at one time attached to and seems eager to make is the long-bandied-about film version of the classic novel "A Confederacy of Dunces." Ferrell, anxious to sink his teeth into the meaty character of Ignatius P. Reilly, the eccentric, slovenly and ne'er-do-well central figure of the novel, bemoans the fact that the film seems stuck in Development Hell and isn't likely to be made anytime soon...at least not before Ferrell ages past the point of playing the 30 year old character (not that he isn't a bit long in the tooth for it already).

It's hard to tell if they're going for high camp with this one, semi-naughty slapstick like some of Ferrell's other films, or just plain goofy family fun. If they're trying to get to all three the film can't be anything but a hopeless mess. If I had to guess I'd say it's more of the "high camp" school of intentional badness. I mean, come on...some of the bad green-screening and giant creatures in the clips we've seen are so laughable that they can't possibly be intended to be serious.

Anna Friel is an immensely charming actress (don't get me started on the egregious tragedy that was the demise of "Pushing Daisies") who seems to be playing the straight man in this film...the whip-smart assistant who'll save the bumbling men in all their bluster and swagger. As female archetypes in films go, she could do worse. At least she isn't stuck doing a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Ferrell described Danny McBride as "about to be huge." According to the current Law of Comedies, he is this film's emissary from the Apatow Stable. Bride appeared in "Superbad," "Pineapple Express" and "Tropic Thunder." I couldn't pick him out of a lineup if you put a gun to my head, but Will Ferrell says he's about to be huge, so I guess I better get ready.

In Conclusion: With the summer reshuffling, this film gets its opening weekend all to itself, but I'm not sure it'll help. Ferrell's comedies haven't been burning up the ticket sales lately, and it'd be so easy for this film to get lost in the shuffle. I'm not sure 1970s nostalgia is enough to draw audiences to this movie, and one Will Ferrell movie seems to be like another in the public's mind. Then again, I never thought "Talladega Nights" would do any business either, so what do I know?

Similar Titles: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Bewitched
June 5th, 2009 (wide)
October 13th, 2009 (DVD)

Universal Pictures

Brad Silberling

Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone

Total: 43 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Comedy

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and for language including a drug reference.

93 min





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