'Lost' Among The Lizards (And The Amiable Loons)

Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel and a pterodactyl in 'Land of the Lost'. i i

Pecked to death? Will Ferrell (left), Danny McBride and Anna Friel dodge an airborne threat. Universal Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Universal Pictures
Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel and a pterodactyl in 'Land of the Lost'.

Pecked to death? Will Ferrell (left), Danny McBride and Anna Friel dodge an airborne threat.

Universal Pictures

Land of the Lost

  • Director: Brad Silberling
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy
  • Running time: 93 minutes

PG-13: Crude and sexual content; language, including a drug reference

With: Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride

The Sleestak in 'Land of the Lost' i i

Sleestak 2.0: From the Lost City, the updated Sleestak sports a six-pack and slightly more believable green skin and pincers. Universal Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Universal Pictures
The Sleestak in 'Land of the Lost'

Sleestak 2.0: From the Lost City, the updated Sleestak sports a six-pack and slightly more believable green skin and pincers.

Universal Pictures

Land of the Lost, I'm obligated to tell you, is based on a cult '70s TV show about a family trapped in an alternate universe populated by dinosaurs, primitive men, funky metaphysics and a race of lizard people dressed in rubber suits.

The big-screen remake, I should note, is mostly about Will Ferrell running away from computer-generated dinosaurs.

It's a pretty nifty T. Rex; this blockbuster trifle surely cost a thousand times more to produce and market than the entire run of the original show.

But the director, Brad Silberling, and his gargantuan production team have retained a sense of humor about their low-fi source material. The lizard folk, dubbed Sleestaks, may have menacing CGI fangs, but they still look like — and wobble about like — extras in chintzy costumes.

There is, in fact, an affable humility to Land of the Lost, which has no pretensions beyond flaunting some cool stuff and eliciting a couple chuckles. It succeeds on both counts; keep your eyes out for the funniest Auto-Tune gag in the history of cinema.

The quintessence of disposable pop summer fare, Land of the Lost proves a harmless enough way to spend a few hours in ostentatious air conditioning, though it might have done a bit more with the character of Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), mostly utilized for her capacity to generate boobie jokes.

Holly is the fawning assistant of one Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell), a discredited time-travel theorist who invents a chunk of ridiculous gadgetry (numerical keypads circa 1983, a dangling iPod here and there) that somehow opens up a portal to an alternate dimension.

Accompanied by an uncouth hillbilly named Will Stanton (Danny McBride), they tumble into the Land of the Lost, an inexplicable realm that's one part transhistorical Bermuda Triangle, one part Jurassic Park and one part ersatz-Aztec jungle, complete with an enigmatic crystalline pyramid that may or may not be, as Stanton speculates, the ancient site of the Latin Grammy Awards.

Condensing the premise of a serialized TV show to Hollywood feature length results in a heady sort of narrative compression, and as the movie goes free-falling through pop-cultural pastiche, it generates its set pieces according to no logic beyond the filmmaker's notions of what cool thing should happen next.

There is a plot, of sorts, involving the double-crossing of various Sleestak factions. But most of the movie revolves around gross-out gags — about dousing oneself in prehistoric urine, being feasted upon by mosquitoes the size of armadillos, and enduring the hysterics of Chaka, a Neanderthal sidekick played by Jorma Taccone with all the anthropological subtlety of the GEICO Caveman.

On the funny or die scale, Land of the Lost leaves you with a detectable pulse. But it is, in any event, a welcome change of pace from Ferrell's endless round of silly-sports movies. He holds his own against the onslaught of effects and production-design craziness, maintaining that strange sort of comedic dignity he has perfected — namely, shameless deadpan idiocy.

Correction June 5, 2009

An earlier version of this review mistakenly named the actor playing Will Stanton. The text has been corrected.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.