You must let go.
If you don't go of your 2009 moviegoing sensibilities, then you have virtually no chance of appreciating "Land of the Lost," the Will Ferrell led feature film based upon the 1970's Sid & Marty Krofft television series noted mostly for its hilariously campy production design and so bad they were funny actors.
Director Brad Silberling has tried his darndest to remain faithful to the Krofft vision, perhaps owing mostly to the fact that the Krofft's are producers on the film.
So, while your average Summer flick is a CGI-laden techno-gasm for geeks everywhere, "Land of the Lost" is an off-kilter, technically primitive trip back in space and time.
Will Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a quantum paleontologist whose theories have largely reduced him to teaching science classes in a local public school after a network television interview with Matt Lauer went wildly awry. Virtually everyone considers Marshall a crackpot, with the exception of a British grad student named Holly (Anna Friel), herself booted out of grad school when she publicly admires Marshall's work.
In fast order, the two meet up and head out to field test Marshall's latest invention at an underground funhouse ride in the middle of the desert run by a good ole' boy named Will (Danny McBride), himself a bit of a crackpot.
Before long, "Land of the Lost" travels the way of the television series as the three travel down a gigantic waterfall into the "land of the lost" where dinosaurs roam and the Sleestaks run wild and a bizarre little monkey-dude named Cha-Ka (Jorma Taccone) befriends them, especially the pleasantly endowed Holly.
"Land of the Lost" purists, all 10 of you, are likely to lament that Silberling and screenwriters Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas have altered rather significantly the basic "Land of the Lost" storyline by changing the three leading characters from family members to a scientist, a hottie sidekick and a goofy redneck. While this change may give Ferrell and gang additional fodder for off-color humor, it takes away key elements of the original series...charm and innocence.
In place of innocence, this cinematic "Land of the Lost" gives us an abundance of breast fondling, fecal jokes, body fluid gags and sexual innuendo that detracts from the deliriously campy production design and goofiness. Perhaps this is Ferrell's version of stretching, as he moves from naughty man-child to simply a dirty old man.
Your ability to enjoy "Land of the Lost" rests almost solely on your ability to completely let go and surrender to the absurdity of it all. After all, if you've seen any of the episodes of "Land of the Lost" in recent years you've likely realized that what once seemed frightening was, in actuality, remarkably silly all along.
The same is true for Ferrell's "Land of the Lost." Absolutely none of this makes sense...it's not supposed to for a single moment. Likewise, the maniacal T-Rex isn't meant to be truly frightening and it's not. I dare say that even the most timid child can watch "Land of the Lost" without cowering behind a parent during any part of the film.
Cha-Ka, the Jar Jar Binks of 1970's television, is downright endearing here and nearly the funniest part of the film except for a few scenes where the McBride/Ferrell improv chemistry goes fully off-kilter.
What makes "Land of the Lost" fall short?
Despite the absurdity of it all, one can't help but feel that Silberling couldn't ultimately decide if he wanted "Land of the Lost" to be completely retro or simply the retro concept in a contemporary world. There are times that "Land of the Lost" feels like it's straddling the fence between being a Sid & Marty Krofft vision and yet another Will Ferrell variation on the character he keeps playing over and over and over again. It's a shame really, because I got the distinct feeling that Ferrell could have taken this sucker over the psychotic edge if given the freedom to do so.
Nobody in "Land of the Lost" gives a brilliant performance, but had they given an awesome performance it wouldn't have been "Land of the Lost."
I mean, seriously, have you seen the television series?
While it's not surprising that Ferrell and McBride largely carry the picture, given their chemistry and gifts for improv, Anna Friel holds her own as the stereotypical loyal assistant while Jorma Taccone steals most of his scenes as a horny Missing Link.
Matt Lauer, THAT Matt Lauer, displays a surprising gift for comic timing in talk show scenes that book end the film while Trekker's may very well recognize a certain "Star Trek" legend who's having quite the year.
Production design fits in with the decidedly retro and campy feeling of the film, and Michael Giacchino's musical score sort of feels like techno hit the trailer park.
While "Land of the Lost" is undeniably disappointing and falls short of its comic potential, its faithfulness to the original series and distinctive comic voice may allow it to find a modest audience before it achieves a much longer life on home video.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic