I didn’t expect to like Land of the Lost. In fact, to be honest, I was
dreading seeing it. The movie looked like incredibly watered down,
generic tripe. From what I had seen in the ads, Will Ferrell and Danny
McBride were being criminally wasted.

Now, maybe those lowered expectations played some part, but I was very,
very surprised by the actual movie. It’s nothing at all like what I
expected – strange, edgy and most definitely not family friendly, Land
of the Lost is a PG-13 blockbuster adventure movie that plays not like
the original TV series but rather a bong-addled 3am viewing of the
original TV series. And while it’s not perfect, the movie surprises and
shocks enough to make it really worth seeing.

Possibly more shocking than the constant sexual humor and drug
references is the fact that director Brad Silberling and screenwriters
Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas have crafted a film that’s actually
quite faithful to the Sid & Marty Krofft original. The popular
consciousness has Land of the Lost being a show about dinosaurs, lizard
people and cave men, but it also had a very weird, very trippy science
fiction thing going on, bringing in alternate realities and timelines
and multiple dimensions. The Land of the Lost isn’t a valley that time
forgot and it isn’t a place in Earth’s past; rather it’s a bizarre
dimension where a number of realities and timelines converge. This
would be the most obvious thing to cut from any movie version of the
show – who needs strange pylons and New Agey crystals in a movie about
dinosaurs chasing Will Ferrell? – but it’s exactly what the film
focuses on.

Well, that’s not quite fair. That’s what drives the film’s plot forward
– crystals and dimension hopping and invading armies of Sleestaks – but
what Land of the Lost really focuses on is Ferrell, McBride, Anna Friel
and Jorma Taccone. Silberling does the dinosaurs and the lizard men
right, or at least well enough, but what he’s really smart about is
letting these guys do their thing. Ferrell is Dr. Rick Marshall, a
disgraced scientist with an eating disorder (“This is a doughnut
stuffed with M&Ms. That way you don’t have to eat any M&Ms when
you finish the doughnut”
) and an obsession with time warps and show
tunes. Anna Friel is Holly, the beautiful Cambridge student who
believes in his discredited theories. McBride is Will, the redneck who
runs a fireworks shack in the desert (“I call this one the Mexican
) and a shitty water ride that happens to sit directly on a
dimensional vortex. And Taccone is Cha-Ka, the hairy little monkey man
who is a cowardly, selfish, horny asshole with a taste for
hallucinogens. They do their fair share of running around and yelling,
but Silberling understands that spending time with them simply being
funny is better than them not being funny against a big special effect. And each of them is damn funny, working together in a semi-improv atmosphere that favors subtle jokes over hammy punchlines.

Which means Silberling bravely lets the comedy play out. Other blockbuster
directors would try to find the joke in a scene, cut down to the laugh line and move on to the
next, but Silberling lingers. A scene where Ferrell attempts to mask
his scent by bathing in Hadrosaur urine goes on and on, unfolding over
the course of minutes as the comedian keeps finding ways to mine laughs
out of the situation. Similarly, a scene where Cha-Ka, Will and
Marshall start tripping on Land of the Lost organic liquid LSD just plays out at
its own pace. It just keeps going and going, building and building, ebbing and flowing.
It’s a joy to watch these guys luxuriate in a scene, finding their own
jokes and making them work.

The tone of the movie is a weird one; it’s truly a stoner comedy not in
that it’s filled with drug humor but in that its pacing is strange,
going from quick to slow like a sine wave. It’s also more than a little
mean – the comedy often comes from humiliation and anger, and in one
scene that’s almost Seinfeldian in its utter amorality our heroes
simply stand around and watch a guy getting torn to shreds by
velociraptors. Don’t get me wrong – I loved this scene – but it speaks
to the reality of the movie, which is not the film Universal is
selling. Land of the Lost is filled with crude sex jokes, swear words,
potty humor, and general meanness. In other words, it’s hilarious.

It’s not perfect. The movie is often extremely dumb, and once or twice
it pulls a punch, likely to get the PG-13 rating. But it’s silly enough
and weird enough that that tone pulls you through some of the stupid
stuff, assuming you’re not completely uptight. I don’t like to critique
other critic in my reviews, but I must say be wary of what you read
about this movie. It’s most definitely not what anyone expected, and I
think that may have turned some folks off at the gate. And the humor,
being essentially stoner humor, is the sort of stuff that keeps getting
funnier over time. I suspect that Land of the Lost is a cult film in
the making, a Zoolander sort of film that lives on well past its
initial release and becomes a quotable touchstone.

7.5 out of 10