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Movie Review: Land of the Lost

BY ERIC JAMES SUNDERMANN | JUNE 08, 2009 7:26 AM

* out of *****

A few years ago, Will Ferrell made the leap from “Saturday Night Live” star to leading man in the box office. He cranked out some quality, laugh-out-loud comedies with Anchorman and Talledaga Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He even discovered a new character by showing the audience he knew how to act with the soft and lovable Stranger Than Fiction.

But then suddenly, it was as if he stopped trying. We were forced to suffer repetition of the same slapstick humor (and his naked body). Such movies as Step Brothers, Blades of Glory, and Semi-Pro were not only awful, they were disappointing because his earlier work had been so good.

New comedy Land of the Lost is no different. Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a quantum paleontologist who is laughed out of scientific circles (and the “Today” show with Matt Lauer) for his belief in time warps. A discouraged Marshall quits his work and becomes a reluctant elementary-school teacher. Suddenly, Cambridge graduate student Holly (Anna Friel) shows up with a fossil that proves his theories correct. They team up and head to the spot she found the fossil, a cave-turned theme park owned by redneck Will (Danny McBride), determined to show the world that time travel is possible by harnessing tachyons (a subatomic particle). Using Marshall’s invention, the Tachyon Amplifier, they activate the machine inside the cave. They end up falling through a time warp into the “Land of the Lost,” a place combining past, present, and future. The team lands in a desert, scattered with UFOs, ice-cream trucks, and dinosaurs — and their adventure begins.

The movie’s premise itself is a bit ridiculous, so Ferrell and McBride seem to be great candidates for the cast. But the script does not seem to know what it wants to do. At first, it seems to be a family-friendly comedy, but then it ventures into adult themes when an F-bomb is dropped and boobs are grabbed, making things awkward for mom and dad if they brought the kids. This awkwardness does not allow any leeway for Ferrell or McBride, and their clearly improvised scenes seem forced. At one point, Ferrell has urine dumped on him. Funny? Initially. But the scene continues for about a minute longer than it should. By the end of the scene, the initial humor is gone. I think I heard crickets in the theater.

It’s these types of scenes that repeat themselves throughout the film and don’t allow any room for redemption from the characters. I did chuckle a couple times, but that humor was lost almost immediately after it was taken too far.

Ferrell is his usual self, but that is another major problem: We’ve seen this character before. He’s loud, dumb, arrogant, and naked (imagine Ron Burgundy as a scientist). It’s frustrating for the audience, because we want to laugh. We really do. But he’s not providing anything for us — in fact, everything he’s presenting seems to be grabbed out of the recycling bin.

McBride is funny in parts, but as with Ferrell, we’ve seen this character before. I think he must have watched reels of John C. Reilly for his role preparation because McBride seemed to be a (bad) impersonation. His redneck antics are forced, drawn out, and boring.

This is at least preferable to Friel, who doesn’t have a personality at all. She’s not funny, but she’s not serious either. She seems to be floating along, relying on Ferrell and McBride to carry the load, but as they fail to do so, she drowns as well.

The movie feels much longer than its mere 98 minutes. It offers nothing new to comedy, except for a few one liners (which aren’t funny). Ferrell is the same. McBride is the same. The whole movie is the same. If you want to see Land of the Lost (and I recommend you don’t) for your slapstick Ferrell kick, go to the video store and rent Anchorman. After all, it’s essentially the same movie, right?


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