Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Land of the Lost" a fun, bizarre goof

Land of the Lost (2009) 
101 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B -

Abandon all you know about the '70s Saturday morning cult TV show by schlockmeisters Sid and Marty Krofft, the guys that gave viewers such a not-so-natural high from “H.R. Pufnstuf." That way you might just have a good time with "Land of the Lost," a completely indefensible but entertaining goof. 

Never leaving home without his idiot shtick, Will Ferrell is but less overbearing playing Dr. Rick Marshall, a “quantum paleontologist” who, despite flak from the mainstream media for being a quack, invents a time-warp device. Testing his tachyon amplifier at the Devil's Canyon, Marshall, his number-one-fan/assistant Holly (Anna Friel), along with mulletted, white-trash doofus Will Stanton (Danny McBride), are inadvertently dumped through a vortex into the prehistoric past. The plot, for what it's worth, mostly consists of our heroes running from dinosaurs and the menacing, rubbery Sleestaks, and trying to find their way home. 

Hats off to "Land of the Lost" for being a very weird, muddled movie: it's virtually a Will Ferrell comedy trapped in a kiddie adventure movie's body. From a script by TV writers Chris Henchy and Denis McNicholas, it's aimless and coarse, with jokes involving dino waste, a drug trip, and a monkeyman sidekick named Chaka (Jorma Taccone) that cops a feel of Holly's breasts any chance he gets. After a nostalgic vintage logo of Universal Pictures opens the film, only the outline of the TV show will count for fidelity's sake (Holly and Will are no longer Marshall's children). The effects are intentionally cheesy and '50s retro, and the whole film adopts an endearingly funky vibe. 

Just when you thought Ferrell's timing for the funny stuff was going out the door, he actually delivers some laughs here. He mugs, shrieks like a sissy, pours dino urine all over himself as “protection” from a T-Rex, and gets in touch with his inner gay when his science doohickey starts playing showtunes from “A Chorus Line.” Friel is a cute foil and straight man in shorty shorts and pigtails, and McBride's patented brashness gets more laughs here than he did in "Pineapple Express" (yes, I said it). In a recurring gag, Matt Lauer gives a deadpan-funny “good sport” cameo on The Today Show. 

Director Brad Silberling may never know what kind of movie he made or whom his audience is, but at least "Land of the Lost" is dumb, anything-goes fun, whacked-out by design and not the primitive T-Rex turd as expected. 

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