Between two pitiful Today Show bookend scenes (both featuring Matt Lauer confirming Tom Cruise’s accusation “You’re glib, Matt. You’re glib!”), Land of the Lost sheds its TV-formula origins as a 1970s network series and becomes glib fun. Will Ferrell plays scientist Rick Marshall, who explores “tears in time, quantum paleontology.” Inventing the “Techyon amplifier,” Marshall’s gizmo takes the past, present and future “mashed-up together.” In other words, TV. Instead of shouting, “Eureka!” Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) exclaims, “Capt. Kirk’s nipples!” Is that enough to ride the coattails of the much-inferior Star Trek movie?
This F/X-laden version of Land of the Lost is better than a kiddy thing, no longer beholding to a child’s (a generation’s) TV-warped idea of humor and beauty. When Marshall, Holly (Anna Friel), a devotee from Cambridge and Will (Danny McBride), an attendant from a run-down amusement park, are transported through the tears in time, the gags—parodying adventure movies—are fitfully amusing. Yet their silliness is vented through the richly imagined set design by Bo Welch—not stolid like Benjamin Button, but they’re the most whimsical atmospherics since Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Time-warp jokes mixing historical anachronisms with contemporary product placement recall SNL sketch writing, but Welch sets mall-culture detritus in an interplanetary/desert setting with three moons, bug-eyed aliens and dinosaurs that spark folkloric imagination: Golden Gate Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Big Boy sign, hip-hop limousine, rollercoaster, even Cadillac Ranch with lime green and purple Caddies next to a drive-in-movie screen. These are all more expressive than the scaled-down global icons in Zhang Ke-Jia’s dull art movie The World.
In this post-TV remake, “Lost” means gone, as in nostalgia. This touching idea is not fully developed, and director Brad Silberling’s action editing is always behind the beat (diminishing the intended parody of what people misread in the Indiana Jones movies). Yet pop-culture affection is felt consistently from Ferrell’s homages—to both A Chorus Line and Cher’s “Believe”—to McBride (the white Mike Epps) enjoying a time-warp benefit that could have come from a classic Hope-Crosby road movie.
Land of the Lost
Directed by Brad Silberling
Runtime: 93 min.
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