Land of the Lost is a terrible family film – let’s just get that out there – but it is certain to live on as a staple of bleary-eyed uni students’ movie nights; sandwiched in-between repeat viewings of The Wall. Despite being completely demolished at the U.S. box office and renounced by almost any critic with an inch of credibility to their name, I find myself developing fond feelings for Brad Silberling‘s messy, madcap remake of the classic 70’s television show. Although it may have at first been developed as a variation on the money-generating Night at the Museum franchise, Silberling, the screenwriters, and star Will Ferrell all completely forget about entertaining kids in an effort to squeeze in as many drug references and sex jokes as possible. In a $100 million tentpole release? You have to admire that.
I’m sure right now you are all attempting to find your hats that were no doubt blown off your head by the fact that I enjoyed Land of the Lost. I promise I will clarify my reasons, but first allow me to set the scene. Will Ferrell stars as Will Ferr… I mean, Dr. Rick Marshall, an infamous palaeontologist who believes he has solved the fossil fuel situation. He has developed a mysterious device called the Tachyon Amplifier that will (insert explanation here) and open a portal to a parallel dimension. From this new dimension, he will be able to acquire all the fossil fuels the human race will ever need or something like that.
Laughed out of the industry for his crazy idea, he is rescued from his shame spiral by the determined, Cambridge-educated Holly (Anna Friel), who implores him to put the Tachyon Accelerator to use. They head out into the desert and team up with gas-station-attendant/fireworks salesman/cave tour-guide/would-be entrepreneur Will (the always hilarious Danny McBride), for reasons I’m sure were never explained. The three of them fire up the Tachyon Amplifier and are sucked into a parallel universe, in which past, present and future combine. Dinosaurs, ape-men and lizard-people (Sleestaks for the initiated) roam the planet; ships are wrecked in the middle of the desert; Ice Cream vans fall out of the sky. And this all comes before the main characters share some alternate-universe peyote.
“Did you say peyote?!” Yes I did, and I’ll ask you not to interrupt mid-review. Here’s what I meant about LOTL completely missing the mark as a good kids film. The picture features scene-after-scene of sexual innuendo and pot-addled humour that is sure to go over the head of any audience member under the age of 15. Combined with the bizarre imagery of a giant-bloodsucking bug the size of a basketball and a motel half-sunken into the ground, Land of the Lost plays less like Elf and more like the funnier, younger cousin of Un Chien Andalou. Director Silberling, who also helmed the fantastic yet similarly unloved Lemony Snicket, has no interest in pandering to children (despite a couple of groan-worthy poop jokes). While some kids may enjoy the sight of a big T-Rex chasing Will Ferrell across the jungle, I doubt many will giggle at a recurring joke based around the show tunes from A Chorus Line.
I completely understand why people are using this film as a punching bag. Parents are watching it with their kids and are being turned off by all the salty language and drug references (and believe me, I have no idea how this thing got away with a PG rating). Will Ferrell fans are disappointed by what is arguably a phoned-in rent-a-Ferrell performance. Watching the picture, I couldn’t understand who this film was made for. And then I realised: It was made for me. Not just me, obviously, but anyone who enjoys watching a film that dares to blow it’s $100 million budget on scenes that feature Marshall and Will breaking into a rendition of Cher’s hit song ‘Believe’ (complete with Autotune).
So this may be the most selfish and pointless review I’ve ever written, but if you find any spiritual kinship with myself then this film is for you. Ferrell and McBride may be pulling out their stock-caricatures (Ferrell the lovably arrogant man-child; McBride the wimpy, sexist redneck), but their comic timing is so pitch-perfect that they could make me laugh even if they were breaking really awful news. Call it a bad idea; call it a misfire; call it a waste of $100 million. But a film this strange has ‘cult classic’ written all over it. Much like my deformed, grotesque sibling kept caged in the attic, Land of the Lost has its flaws, but I love it all the same.