Enter Will Ferrell and director Brad Silberling, who resurrect what was a sorta-serious show for kids as a big-budget comedy extravaganza aimed squarely at 13-year-old boys. Ferrell is scientist Rick Marshall time-travel enthusiast, binge eater and the worst Today Show guest of Matt Lauer's career. In this re-boot Marshall is unmarried, childless and the laughing stock of the scientific community. Holly (Anna Friel) and Will (the hilarious Danny McBride) are recast as a research assistant and a cave-tour-running redneck, respectively.
The rest of the key details about dinos and Sleestaks are intact from the original show, though with some updates. For example, Cha-Ka the monkey-thing still works as a tour guide, but now seems more interested in grabbing Holly's boobs than making pals. Grumpy the T-Rex is on hand and is still chasing the castaways all over the place, but now he's a creation of CGI wizardy rather than puppets and rear-projection. As for the Sleestakes, they still move slowly, but with two modern updates: toothy mouths and a sex drive.
Here's the good news: The titular "land" looks fantastic, a believable place loaded with the detritus of human culture. I especially loved a great sandy plain containing the random wreckage of (among other things) the Golden Gate Bridge, a viking ship and a half-buried motel with a swimming pool. All three principal actors are good, with Danny McBride nearly stealing the show. As for Will Ferrell, he should win some sort of special Oscar just for his performance in the scene involving Hadrosaur piss.
But that mention of dinosaur urine should give you an idea of the maturity level L.O.T.L. exists on. And this is where the bad news comes in: For those hoping the new film captures the magic and wonder you felt watching the TV show as a kid, you're in for a disappointment. This is male-driven, lowbrow, scatological humor albeit some of it very funny and little more. The plot is laughable, the lone female character is weak and the Sleestak villains are a disappointment. It's just hard to get all excited about a slow-moving guy in a rubber lizard suit, especially after watching the believable CGI T-Rex hurdle a canyon.
I'll admit that Land of the Lost left me torn. I laughed at much of it, but I don't think it's a particularly good movie. For every hilarious gag there's one that doesn't work, and even the good ones are liable to make you feel stupid the day after. I'm curious to see what women think of the movie (I've talked to two: one hated it, one thought it was better than she expected), and I suspect it will play better if you're already a fan of Will Ferrell going in. If you're a dude aged 13-21, though, this is the movie for you.
The summer movie season is never one for originality, as Hollywood puts forth mostly known properties with built-in fan interest. This summer has already seen re-boots of X-Men and Star Trek, a fourth Terminator sequel and a second shot of Night at the Museum and that's just May. In the weeks to come, expect sequels (Transformers, Harry Potter, Halloween, etc.), remakes (Taking of Pelham 123), and even more re-boots.
Which brings me to Land of the Lost. Originally created by puppet-masters Sid & Marty Krofft back in their 1970s heyday, Land of the Lost (L.O.T.L.) followed the adventures of dimension-hopping scientist Rick Marshall and his two kids, Will and Holly. While on a camping trip, the trio was swept over a waterfall and through a dimensional portal to a strange new world, parallel to earth but containing artifacts of the planet's past and future. Will and the kids were chased by dinosaurs, befriended by a weird monkey-thing named Cha-Ka and had dealings with lizard men known as Sleestaks, all in an attempt to find their way home. Sadly, cast shake-ups and cancellation came first.