Sunday, September 12, 2010

Despite A Few Moments Of Laughs, Land Of The Lost Disappoints.

The Good: Moments where it is actually funny, Special effects are decent
The Bad: Repetitive sense of humor, Light on character development, Ridiculous plot
The Basics: Despite having good moments of unpredictable humor, Land Of The Lost is too often not funny or clever enough to recommend.

My wife is much more into comedies than I am. She likes humor and excuses all sorts of things in movies that I tend to be far more bothered by. So, last year when I found myself going to a preview screening of The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3 she went to see Land Of The Lost and she has been raving about it since whenever we have seen advertisements for it or the actual DVD/Blu-Ray in stores. So, it was with a sense of inevitability that I sat down with her to watch Land Of The Lost a few nights ago. I am fairly sorry that I did, despite the movie having its moments.

The moments that the movie does have tend to come from a sense of originality and surprise which my wife very accurately observed comes from the movie taking abrupt turns that are often funny. The turns in the movie that work are the ones that are based on trying to make jokes and the sense of non sequitor works wonderfully. The movie will appear to be going in one direction and then stop the narrative flow to, for example, have the main characters trip on food which causes them to act completely drugged. The humor turns work, the plot turns are vastly less successful and that frequently makes Land Of The Lost stumble where it could have succeeded.

Years after Dr. Rick Marshall appears on the Today show and embarrasses himself with his scientific theories centered around forming warps in the multiverse to solve the energy crisis, he is visited by a student of his work, Holly. Holly believes that Marshall has a responsibility to build the tachyon amplifier he theorized and goaded by her, he does. The first test of the device occurs in a tourist trap cave where Holly found a fossil imprint of a modern lighter that indicates a convergence of the multiple universes. Guided by the dimwitted showman, Will, Marshall and Holly activate the device on a tour and are teleported to an alternate universe's Earth.

There, the trio discovers a Tyrannosaurus Rex who seems to understand when Marshall is insulting its walnut-sized brain, ape people who are busy sacrificing their prince (and who is rescued by the trio) and lizard people whose agenda is unclear. While trying to make their way back to their own Earth, the three find a pocket in space where a different alien (in a tunic) is imprisoned and requests their help. But Marshall's arrogance and outright stupidity soon land the group in a serious situation and their chance to return home looks like it may disappear!

Land Of The Lost is a Will Ferrell vehicle and my wife's love for his movies made it inevitable that I would end up watching this. Ferrell is a very funny man, but he seems to play much of his humor a very specific way and his arrogant deadpanning shtick soon wears thin on me. While there are substantive differences between Land Of The Lost and Step Brothers, Ferrell's deliveries are hardly loaded with contrasts. Instead, Land Of The Lost could be any number of Ferrell's previous characters running through the fantastic settings of this alternate Earth. So it is hard to say Will Ferrell is even a remotely good actor when his deliveries are virtually identical and one notes that Adam McKay - who seems to be one of the producers, writers or the like on many of Will Ferrell's recent movies - was involved in the production of this movie as well.

Land Of The Lost features nothing in the way of character development for either Marshall or Holly. Rather extraordinarily, it is Will whose character grows most through the experiences in the land of the lost and not all of it is positive character growth. The others pretty much end where they begin. Marshall has a crackpot theory and Holly believes it. Most of the rest of the movie is just validating their original belief by having them encounter increasingly ridiculous creatures and circumstances.

The special effects vary widely between the purposely campy (the lizard people look like what they are: big rubber suits) and state-of-the-art (the Tyrannosaurus Rex looks phenomenal). But the movie has a decent look and feel to it that makes it impossible for me to outright pan the project. In fact, the stunt work in one of the earliest scenes with the Tyrannosaurus Rex which has the four protagonists (the humans having rescued the alien primate by that point) caught by a killer plant and trying to swing their way to freedom looks entirely real. So, no matter how banal the plot progression - which involves duplicity by some of the creatures they encounter - becomes, the effects look decent and the movie moves along at a good pace.

Finally, the movie does not fail entirely because of the elements of humorous surprise. The reversals are frequently funny and clever when they are done for the sake of laughter. For example, when the three men are laying around high, they are menaced by a giant crab. The music ramps up with tension and those who actually care about them actually feel fear for the heroes. But then, the crab falls through the desert floor into a hot spring, is boiled alive and the resulting explosion of crabmeat makes for a feast. It is unexpected, funny and well-executed.

On DVD, Land Of The Lost comes with featurettes that focus on the special effects, the transition from the television show to the movie and casting choices. There is a commentary track, deleted scenes and a blooper reel. The extras seem extensive for a comedy, especially one which did not do so well at the box office, so fans will get quite a bit for their money with this.

Unfortunately, even the bonus features are not quite enough to sell the viewer on the movie and the long stretches between laughs, especially in the second half, ultimately sink the film.


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© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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