Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Land of the Lost" Review

Reviled by critics and passed over by audiences, to all appearances Will Ferrell's latest had arrived dead on arrival. So when I saw the film, playing to an audience of about twelve, two of whom walked out, I could only express my surprise. From the kitschy production design to the bizarre prehistoric gags, I had a lot of fun with "Land of the Lost."

Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a disgraced "Quantum Paleontologist" who's let his life's work, the Tachyon amplifier, a device capable of moving its holder cross-dimensionally through time, fall by the wayside. It takes the encouragement from Cambridge laughing-stock Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), a student of Marshall's work, to convince him to finish and test the device.

And so they find themselves at trashy highway tourist trap the "Devil's Canyon Mystery Cave," run by redneck Will Stanton (Danny McBride). Picking up major Tachyon hits in the rundown homemade river ride, the amplifier triggers the greatest earthquake ever known, ripping a portal into the titular land of the lost.

After partnering with outcast ape-man Cha-Ka (Jorma Taccone), the trio's mischievous guide, it's a seldom-interrupted chase film, a comedy of hostility, an exercise in silly costumes and slapstick panache. The constituent sequences are admittedly not all gems, but the film's aesthetic is too charming to let the occasional flat bit of banter or poorly executed joke ruin the fun. The movie doesn't stall so much as it occasionally idles, and absolutely succeeds in creating an atmosphere of constant oppression for the protagonists. A pin-drop seems enough for the heroes find themselves on the wrong side of all manner of Jurassic baddies, from T-Rex to Pterodactyls to giant mosquitoes to the lumbering lizard-men known only as Sleestaks.

It's an acquired taste to be sure, but the simple, vibrant set pieces, the Muppet-like creature design, and the cartoony CGI should be immediately appealing to fans of fifties B-pictures, the classic Universal monster films, and anyone interested in a less-than-serious take on the fantastic. Even if you're not a fan of Ferrell, he's done far worse work, and I'll happily take a bizarre experiment like "Land of the Lost" over another generic, diminishingly amusing sports comedy.

All that remains is the film's curious unpopularity, and while I can't reconcile the critical response, its commercial rejection recalls Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's now infamous flop, "Grindhouse." It's tough to advertise homage, and where both films affectionately embrace the campy classics on which they're based, those unfamiliar with the source material just see bad effects and gimmicky plotlines.

"Land of the Lost" isn't a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but has unfairly become the target of critics and internet cynics alike whom I can only assume don't understand the inherent comedic appeal of a man in a rubber suit. I'd watch the film again in a heartbeat over eye-rollingly bland summer action fare like "Wolverine" or (God help me) "Terminator Salvation." It's a breezy, inconsequential adventure film that has a lot of fun with its premise and takes itself as lightly as it should.

Enter with level expectations, and you might just enjoy getting lost.


1 comment:

  1. Wow. Colin George's first 'cheesy ending one liner'. Welcome to the world of movie reviews. :P