Friday, June 05, 2009

Lost Cause: Land of the Lost (movie review)

You can't always judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its trailer.

Take The Hangover, for instance -- previews made it look like a real dog of a movie, a juvenile tale of young guys on the loose in Las Vegas, perhaps a more moronic and less edgy version of the nightmare scenario on display in Very Bad Things. I've yet to see The Hangover, but several positive reviews have rolled in.

On the other hand, the trailer for Land of the Lost suggested that it would be a dino-sized drag, a "comedy" with Will Ferrell making semi-hilarious in two or three bits, and the rest ... nonsense.

I was right. Lost represents stolen hours from my life. See my review, below, or click here to go directly to the review, as published in Las Vegas City Life.

You've been warned.

Land of the Lost
Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel. Directed by Brad Silberling.

Summer movies, by and large, are big, creaky contraptions, star vehicles designed by committee -- witness the multiple screenwriters and smoothed-out scripts -- and frontloaded with commercial tie-ins ad infinitum, the better to make grand entrances. This summer's Exhibit A and B: Terminator Salvation, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Most sputter out and die, while a few are just sleek enough to cruise through the multiplexes all the way to summer's end.

Land of the Lost, which borrows its name and little else from the '70s television series of the same title, comes off as one of the former, a boneheaded comedy likely to open big before bad word-of mouth leads the clunker to a quick DVD release.*

Yes, it's really all that bad and a bag of dinosaur pee, which figures heavily into one of the film's many overlong and awkward sequences. Several of those -- one featuring a giant mosquito gorging on a human, and another related to a T. Rex's bodily fluids -- also count as gross-out humor, sure to please fifth-graders everywhere.

Will Ferrell, his cheerful cluelessness by now an overly familiar act, is Dr. Rick Marshall, a scientist whose attempts to hard-sell theories of time travel get him tossed out of academia and subjected to verbal abuse by Matt Lauer on the "Today" show. Consigned to teach science to kids, he renews his research at the urging of pretty young Brit scientist Holly (Anna Friel). The two, and a redneck souvenir-shop owner (Danny McBride), enter an alternate universe, where they encounter dinosaurs, a friendly ape man, a cult of aliens resembling the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and sundry pop-culture artifacts.

Along the way, director Brad Silberling (Casper, Moonlight Mile) references Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and An Inconvenient Truth.

File under: Fitfully funny string of gags.

*UPDATE: For its opening weekend, Land of the Lost made just $19.5 million at the box office, in third place behind Pixar/Disney comedy Up ($44.2) million and The Hangover ($43.3 mil). Hate to say I told you so, but ...

According to a report at Box Office Mojo, "The start (for Lost) was lower than the similar Journey to the Center of the Earth from last summer as well as Ferrell's last TV adaptation, Bewitched, though it was a bit higher than Speed Racer.

"Distributor Universal Pictures' exit polling indicated that 51 percent of Land's audience was 25 years and older, and, of that group, 40 percent were parents of a child under 13 and the "non-child" audience (13 plus) was evenly split between genders."

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