While I’m unsure if every Will Ferrell comedy vehicle launches in the summertime, it sure as hell feels like it. And by my personal logic, since it’s summer 2009, it must be time for yet another Will Ferrell comedy vehicle where he plays the completely sincere but completely dumb lead role. Be it dead serious, moronic racecar driver Ricky Bobby or idiotic, deadpan Ron Burgandy, Ferrell has managed to create quite the niche for himself as the honest, earnest moron. And in the beginning, it was funny. But now, with the totally flat and boring “Land of the Lost,” hopefully people will begin to see the overwhelmingly similar characters Ferrell plays in each one of his less and less funny comedy films.
In “Land of the Lost” Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, an egomaniacal dumbass who gets laughed out of the scientific community due to his theories on parallel universe time travel. After Matt Lauer makes a joke of Marshall on “The Today Show,” he sinks into a depression that drives him out of the University and into giving tours and speeches at a local museum. Life sucks for Marshall until one day a spunky young scientist named Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) arrives to tell Dr. Marshall she believes in the genius of his studies, and if he can assemble a time travel device he has blueprints for, they can test it in a desert hot-spot she’s discovered. He creates the device amidst a frenzy of fast-food product placement and consumption and away they go to the desert to test it out. The hot-spot Holly has discovered lies underneath a 2-bit tourist attraction run by Will Stanton (Danny McBride). After they bribe him for a tour of his secret cave, the three of them jump in a raft and head down a small river, into a cave.
Long story short, the parallel time travel machine works and Will, Holly, and Dr. Marshall are transported into “The Land of the Lost,” a surreal place that’s mostly prehistoric but has other attractions that make you go “ooooh, weird!” There’s a UFO here and part of the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s giant crabs, mosquitoes, and bugs as well as a T-Rex. There’s also some funky mini-me Bigfoot named Chaka (Jorma Taccone) there who serves to add not-very-funny scenes where the three humans can’t understand what he’s saying in his hybrid Asian/Spanish/Caveman talk. While the travelers are thrilled at the prospect of discovering a new world, they lost their time-travel device in transit and the rest of the film is dedicated to finding it so they can get home. Chaka comes along for the ride and there’s also some convoluted story about a group of Sleestaks (these kind of creatures from the Black Lagoon that got bit by a zombie looking things) taking over the universe. From there, dullness ensues.
“Land of the Lost” is summertime junk food. It’s like being hungry for a burger so you get a fast food one knowing it will likely suck, but it’s convenient, cheap, and will fill you up. Most will go see “Land of the Lost” wanting to see Ferrell do his idiot schtick while being chased around by some CGI creatures for 90-plus minutes in an air-conditioned theater. And if that’s all you want, you’ll dig the film.
But what got to me was the fact that “Land of the Lost” has teamed Ferrell up with Danny McBride (who is usually awesome) and placed them in a really fantastic, whimsical world and then, nothing funny or exciting happens. The scenes where a T-Rex chases the four of them seemingly last for half of the film and are never any better than what you see in the trailers. The T-Rex looks as if the blueprint from the “Jurrassic Park” films was bought at a CGI rummage sale and then recreated with a slightly different color scheme.
I will give kudos to the use of Sleestaks, which were always my favorite part of the original TV show. The originals were awesome because they were freaky looking in a cheap way. (Hey, I was like 7 when I liked the show!) Here they resemble the originals but have dead eyes and, like, four mouths, complete with sharp teeth. While they are fun and creepy, the Sleestaks serve virtually no purpose in the film other than to slowly gather and attack the foursome in between moments when they’re being chased by the T-Rex.
Overall, “Land of the Lost” is a dud. It’s not very funny and it’s not very exciting, and it should be both. I’m just not sure what went wrong when the cast seems solid on paper and director Brad Silberling is no rookie. But if you want to zone out and get your yearly Will Ferrell fix (even if it’s a crappy shadow of what that schtick used to be) then get your tickets for “Land of the Lost” now as this film will be out of multiplexes before the end of June.