‘Lost’ in translation

land-of-the-lost(Sung to the tune of Land of the Lost)

Anna, Will and Danny
In a big expensive movie
Of the strangest kids’ show ever known
High on narcotics, they wrote their freaky script
And it plunged their opening weekend real low.
It’s the “Land of the Lost.”

Rumors have often swirled of the possibility of drug-induced inspiration for many of the Sid & Marty Kroft children’s programming of the 70s, what with talking seaweed, towns of ambulatory hats ruled by a gay, green-faced overlord ,and a character whose name alone winks at the act of getting stoned.

That state of narcotic-assisted euphoria must have been what the writers of the film adaptation of Land of the Lost had attempted to create. And on paper, it probably looked like a box-office bonanza. Rolling paper, that is.

grumpyFor it really is hard to think that as this was being shot and edited that this was somehow going to make a complete picture. As soon as one of its wheels gets wobbly, they all four spin off this vehicle and let it careen into just about any obstacle that might elicit the slightest giggle.

Will Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a disgraced researcher (following an opening-scene tussle with Matt Lauer, which is about as comedically creative the film gets) who is exiled to teaching grade-school science to unresponsive children. When he is approached by Holly (played by Anna Friel) a young, aspiring explorer who believes his theories of time travel, it rekindles his desire to prove himself to a mocking world.

sleestaksThey enlist the help of a cut-rate, hillbilly tour guide (played by the dependable Danny McBride) and leap into a land in which the past, present and future collide. And like most collisions, there’s quite a mess.

Sure, there are shout-outs to the original series (the rubber-suited Sleestaks never looked better, which is rather faint praise), and it’s obvious there was some bucks spent on set design. But all for what? Lost’s humor runs from obvious body function gags to strange non-sequiturs to drug-centric stretches, and did I hear a Polish joke in there, too? Wow, just because its populated with prehistoric beasts does not mean its comedy has to come from that era as well.

Will Ferrell sticks to his manic aping and left-field exclamations that started way back in “Anchorman” (“Captain Kirk ‘s nipples!” is what he now shouts out to bring on the laughs). I like Will’s shtick. And cinematic funnymen are often in a damned-if-they-do-damned-if-they-don’t scenario, in which they are criticized for repeating the same act as well as being told to stick to what they’re best at when they attempt to spread their wings. Personally, I thought Ferrell handled it quite well with the Charlie Kauffman-lite Stranger Than Fiction. But he has demonstrated recently that he truly needs to be surrounded by those who share his comic sensibilities to make it all work (*cough* Semi-Pro *cough*).

Director Brad Silberling can summon decent fantasy elements as he proved with 2004’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, but he seems absolutely confounded with what to make of just what is in front of him. Certain scenes linger on far too long (did we really need to see Farrell douse himself with dino-urine twice?), while others just have no reason to be included at all (I know Ferrell loves to parade his fleshy frame in tighty whitey on-screen, but there really is a limit).

And all of this is mashed together in what feels like several different directions the film wishes to venture into struggling to cohere. Too childish for nostalgic adults, too adult for young kids, and just too damn bizarre for anyone but the staunchest of Ferrell fans, Lost is at least true to its title.

~ by usesoapfilm on June 9, 2009.

One Response to “‘Lost’ in translation”

  1. thanks

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