Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Warped nostalgia

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Your enjoyment level of the new Land of the Lost hinges largely on two factors: a nostalgic fondness for the tacky, tripped-out Saturday-morning original, and a desire to see those childhood memories get warped into a platform for jokes about Will Ferrell's balls.

Fans will vaguely recognize the trio of hapless explorers cast adrift by a cosmic vortex into a land of papier-mâché boulders and rubber monsters, but now they've been transformed into oversexed and clumsy nitwits obsessed with dinosaur droppings. Ferrell stars as Dr. Rick Marshall, a vain, blowhard "Quantum Paleontologist" who somehow discovers an inter-dimensional portal. On TV his sidekicks Will and Holly were his children, but here they're respectively a crass redneck tour guide (McBride) and a shapely fellow scientist (Friel), who's all the better for oglers. Of course, you don't need to know a Sleestak from a flapjack in order to appreciate the colorful creatures, antic action and cool scenery, but you'll be missing out on the film's best and most consistent joke — itself. 

This version smartly embraces the inherent goofiness of Sid and Marty Krofft's chintzy 1970s sci-fi classic, but updates it for modern comedic frat-boy sensibilities. The old show sported positively prehistoric special effects, but these modern ones have the distinction of looking expensive and utterly unconvincing at the same time. The bug-eyed lizard-alien bad guys now have nasty rows of sharp teeth, but they still lumber like mummies trying to ice skate through tapioca pudding. The script seems to have been fashioned from late-night stoner conversations, the kind that pondered how tight young Holly's blouse was, or just how pervy was the look in the eyes of their primate pal Chaka. This devotion to horndog scenarios makes this remake feel a bit like fan fiction, but it also has plenty of set pieces to keep the uninitiated awake. 

Director Brad Silberling can't really nail the tone, nor can he keep Ferrell and McBride's improv in check, leading to the inevitable glimpses of Ferrell's fleshy torso as a punch line. The stars appear eager to be in another, better movie, and keep trying to reroute it into weird tangents, like a Cher sing-along, and a psychedelic fruit that gets you super-duper high. Some such side trips are inventive fun, but then it's right back to desperate bits like Ferrell dumping a jug of piss on his head. When the movie draws attention to its own absurdity, it works; when Ferrell draws undue attention to his goony stunts, it flounders.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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