Will Ferrell is back to his old tricks again in his new film Land of the Lost. Based on the old mid-'70s TV show of the same name, this is a newly updated version sporting a smorgasbord of high-tech special effects and that true deadpan humor that you’ve either come to love (or hate) from Ferrell.
The film starts out with Ferrell’s character, Dr. Rick Marshall, appearing on The Today Show with Matt Lauer. Lauer thinks Marshall is a fraud. He’s studying time warps, for crying out loud. Not only that, but he’s studying them with taxpayer money. Marshall storms off the set when Lauer brings up some scientists who don’t necessarily agree with him.
After throwing the on-air tantrum, Marshall finds himself laughed out of the scientific community. Now he’s giving informational classes at the La Brea Tar Pits to young kids. Instead of teaching anything worthwhile, he continues to give lessons on time warps. Bobb’e J. Johnson, the foul-mouthed kid from Role Models, makes a cameo appearance here. His two lines are among the funniest of the film. He’s got the comedic timing of a seasoned professional. It’s a shame he isn’t in this film more. But, he shines with what he’s given.
Enter the cute, perky Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies), who plays an inquisitive Cambridge student named Holly Cantrell who's obsessed with Marshall’s work. Anna Friel at times acts her heart out in this film. She has some real heartbreaking scenes, but most of them are cut short by lame jokes. She has a beautiful accent, and really lights up the screen every time she’s on it, much like Amy Adams did for the insufferable Night at the Museum 2.
Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder) joins the fray when Holly and Marshall travel out into the desert in search of a hot spot for tachyons. These molecules, if harnessed correctly with the right machinery, should allow one to travel sideways through time and space to alternate dimensions. The hot spot happens to be a carnival-type river ride owned by McBride's character, redneck Will Stanton.
After the makeshift tachyon machine works, the three adventurers find themselves in a strange land filled with ingenious dinosaurs, bipedal primates, gigantic bugs, and lizard people called Sleestaks.
There’s not much of a plot after that. The film plays more like a bunch of SNL skits pieced together with a tropical, unexplored jungle as the backdrop. Some of the scenes work and will warrant a chuckle or two, and some just fall flat.
There are some very exquisite set designs in the film, like when the three find themselves in an area of the land where stuff randomly appears — ice cream trucks, bridges, motels, even a UFO. It’s exciting to look at, that’s for sure.
While Land of the Lost is packed full of special effects, it’s really nothing new. The dinosaurs look the same as they did in King Kong, or Jurassic Park even. It’s amazing to me how after all this time the dinos of Jurassic Park still hold up, but I digress.
Land of the Lost is a real mixed bag. Ferrell is a pro and con for the film. Some of his deadpan humor, like when a giant mosquito is sucking his blood without him knowing it, is priceless. But, at times his humor gets a little grating. Friel is always there to brighten up the scene and McBride does his best redneck impersonation.
The biggest problem with Land of the Lost is that it sets the hilarity bar so high in the first fifteen minutes (the Today Show scene, and Bobb’e J. Johnson) and then it slowly descends into less and less funny slapstick comedy.