Massawyrm laughs at and likes LAND OF THE LOST, but doesn't love it...
Published at: June 5, 2009, 9:41 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
There is a small window of time between 1974 and the early 80’s during which, if you were a boy, and by chance you possessed the potential for high levels of nerdity, odds are Saturday mornings meant you were watching LAND OF THE LOST. Quite possibly the best (and certainly one of the best known) of the Sid & Marty Krofft insanity of that era (which included such classics as HR PUFFNSTUFF and THE BUGALOOS), what set this bizarre kids show apart from the rest was that they were doing something few other shows of its time were doing. It was telling real science fiction stories to kids. Not trumped up recycled versions of much better science fiction – actual, honest to God experimental science fiction. That’s not to say that it all holds up. The effects were terrible, the budgets incredibly small and the action is tame, even by the standards of the time. But for kids? Man, it was our Star Trek – only with dinosaurs instead of starships.
So of course I was interested in hearing that they were relaunching it with a reboot film. But all my interest faded the moment I heard it was going to be a Will Ferrell comedy vehicle. As I’ve written many times before, I’m no fan. I think there’s a lot more to Ferrell than we’re seeing right now, but the goofy manchild bit officially lost its luster back during the mind numbingly awful KICKING & SCREAMING. Having seen him pull off some great supporting roles and after his fantastic turn in STRANGER THAN FICTION, I know he’s got it in him. But his comedy just rarely makes me laugh.
Which is why I was so damned surprised by LAND OF THE LOST. What works about this film is the comedy – not the science fiction. In fact this film’s chief problem is its use of the science fiction to drive the comedy and nothing else. This isn’t a cool, clever family sci-fi film. It’s a comedy first and foremost. And for the most part it is very funny. But you’ve seen it before. In fact, you may have just seen it last summer with JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. Same principle, same tone. But this is a better film. LAND OF THE LOST is superior to that film in every way. And yet this still isn’t perfect.
The film’s biggest problem is that while it is a sci-fi adventure film, the adventure parts just weren’t all that thrilling. There are some great sequences to be sure, but these are mostly elevated by the comedic aspects of the leads Ferrell, Danny McBride and Anna Friel (who most of you know best as the adorable Chuck from PUSHING DAISIES). Will Ferrell makes virtually every single run-for-your-life moment funny. There are a lot of great jokes in each of these and it is heaps of fun. But whenever they try to create (as director Brad Silberling put it) jeopardy, they lost me. I was never invested enough in the characters because they were spoofs. While Friel serves to try to ground two incompetent man-children (Ferrell and McBride) it still isn’t enough to make me believe anything serious is going to happen to these guys. So I just kept waiting for the sequences to find their way back to the jokes.
The science fiction is something of a joke here as well. While they do a great job revisiting the LAND OF THE LOST world - complete with some very cool visuals that we’ve never seen before (like the Sleestaks teeth) - they never use that world to tell a real science fiction story; a real adventure story. So it all feels just a bit hollow. It never connects in the way something like GHOSTBUSTERS or SHAUN OF THE DEAD does when offering us solid, gut busting comedy and making us care about the characters at the same time.
The one thing the film does superior to the show (aside from the effects) is their presentation of Chaka. I was always annoyed by Chaka. He had his occasions to be very cool – but he was incredibly creepy and often obnoxious. Here Chaka is a lot of fun. Played masterfully by the up and coming SNL writer Jorma Taccone (one of the Lonely Island Trio – you might remember him from HOT ROD or the various SNL digital shorts), Chaka is a bit of a bastard, and pretty damned funny when given a chance. They remove all the adorable ignorant child aspects and actually make him a survivable, somewhat intelligent, mischievous little scamp. And Jorma nails it. Almost unrecognizable beneath the make-up, there are only a few moments where fans will be able to really see him underneath all that fur – mostly when he manages to slip the infamous Jorma dance into an appropriate scene.
Complaints aside, the film is a good time. It’s a fun and occasionally very funny romp that is perfect for chomping popcorn. I sat next to Kubla Khan, Harry’s 8 year old nephew, who was hypnotized and uttered a slow, excited “Cooooooool!” every time something really neat happened – so it plays to the kids, despite a bit of raunchy humor. It is the very model of an enjoyable, but not entirely noteworthy summer flick. Worth checking out, but definitely not on par with last weekend’s incredible releases.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.