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Land of the Lost (2009)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/13/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/18/2009
I can't think of the proper word for what I'm thinking. It's a situation where someone has done something over and over, and these activities have met with a positive or successful response. So, the person thinks that if they keep doing it, they will continue to see the same results. In fact, the person assumes that they can't go wrong by following this path. It's not really narcissism or self-delusion, but it's similar to both of those. Will Ferrell's film career has always had highs and lows, but he seemed to have found a niche doing off-beat comedy which was working for him. But, apparently, there was a mindset that his appeal could carry any project, even something as misguided as Land of the Lost.
Will Ferrell stars in Land of the Lost as Dr. Rick Marshall, a paleontologist who is convinced that time warps will allow us to travel to other dimensions, where we can gather energy. These theories cause him to be laughed out of the science establishment and we find him working at the La Brea Tar Pits. There, he's approached by graduate student Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) who admires his work. She encourages Marshall to finish building his tachyon accelerator, a device which may allow them to time travel. They venture to a cave in the California desert ("Devil's Canyon") where Holly found a bizarre fossil. There, they meet Will Stanton (Danny McBride), fireworks salesman and tour guide for the cave. Once in the cave, Marshall's device does indeed open a time warp and the three fall into a strange land. There, they meet an ape-man named Chaka (Jorma Taccone), and are pursued by a T-Rex. They are also accosted by lizard creatures called Sleestaks. Marshall realizes that they must find his machine or they will be stuck in this bizarre world forever.
Just in case you weren't aware, Land of the Lost is based on the television show of the same name, which ran from 1974-1977. It was a live-action Saturday morning show from Sid & Marty Krofft. Despite the fact that the show comes across as devastatingly cheap and cheesy today, it attempted to be an earnest and serious show which depicted the struggle that the characters had to survive. Making the movie is yet another attempt to cash in on nostalgia, this time with a product which will overlap Baby Boomers and Generation X.
As a serious attempt at Land of the Lost would have probably been a mistake, the makers decided to do a comedy. Now, if you've seen Land of the Lost recently (it's been airing here and there on cable), then you've no doubt been dumbfounded by the look of the show and thought to yourself, "If there going to make the Land of the Lost movie a comedy, then they'll no doubt spoof the show." Well, so much for a common sense approach to filmmaking.
No, instead of doing this, the makers of Land of the Lost have opted to make a big-budget, straight-ahead, high-concept comedy with many action/adventure elements. Well, this might still work, right? Well, the comedy has been driven straight through the middle of the Will Ferrell universe. Now, I don't mean for that to sound like a negative thing. I love Will Ferrell. I quote movies likeStep Brothers, Anchorman, and Talladega Nights on a regular basis. His off-kilter approach to comedy works very well when rolled into everyday situations. But, when applied to a movie about dinosaurs and ape-men, it simply doesn't work. The situations are already outrageous enough -- adding the no-shame, frat-boy humor of Ferrell takes an unusual situation and simply makes it too strange. I was floored by how unfunny the jokes in the film were. There are several attempts at big laughs which simply fall flat. And the scene by the pool, which has a promising moment thanks to an outrageously large piece of fruit, just keeps going and going and is never funny. (It's not surprising to learn that one of the writers worked on Saturday Night Live, as much of the film reminds me of those skits which have a funny idea and then die a slow, painful death.)
Now, with Will Ferrell and Danny McBride on-board, Land of the Lost isn't a total disaster (or the mess which many critics made it out to be). I did laugh a few times, and if you like Ferrell or McBride at all, then you will probably chuckle a few times. However, the misplaced comedy isn't the film's only problem. The story is all over the place and it never feels like there was a complete script. Land of the Lost is simply a set of loosely connected scenes and the movie has no flow whatsoever. Therefore, I was shocked when a plot twist attempted to enter the movie. You need a plot before you can have a plot twist. Also, please be advised that despite the presence of dinosaurs and Buddy Elf himself Will Ferrell, this is not a family film. Kids won't get most of the jokes and parents will be horrified that they let their children watch a movie with this much breast groping.
Land of the Lost doesn't wear the proper shoes on the expedition courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain in some shots and no defects from the source material. About that grain -- some scenes towards the beginning of the film are notably grainy, but this is a rarity. Given the fact that many scenes take place in the bright desert, the image would have to be considered clear. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is quite good and the picture has a very nice amount of depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As with most Universal Blu-ray Discs, this track is a thing of beauty. The stereo effects are quite good, and the mix gives them many chances to show-off. The stereo separation is good and the effects are detailed. The surround sound effects are great as well, and they really add to the action scenes, most notably the T-rex. Speaking of which, the bounding dinosaur creates fantastic subwoofer action.
The Land of the Lost Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Brad Silberling. The Disc contains 10 DELETED SCENES which run about 20 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Silberling. There are several brand-new scenes and ideas here, although I wouldn't call them subplots. However, none of them are particularly amusing and they wouldn't have aided the movie. "Dr. Marshall's Food Diaries" (6 minutes) are in-camera "confessionals" from Marshalls time in the strange land. These can be viewed with commentary from Siberling and we get a glimpse of these in the deleted scenes. "A Day in the Life of a Big-Time Movie Star" (11 minutes) allows us to follow Danny McBride around the set as he shows us what his day is like. "Devil's Canyon Gift Shop Commercial and Tour" (7 minutes) had McBride in-character showing us around his store and making weird comments. "This is Not a Routine Expedition: Making Land of the Lost" (84 minutes) is an in-depth featurette which takes us behind-the-scenes to examine the film's production. It begins by looking back at the original TV show. From there the piece looks at how the project came together, the production, the story, and the effects. "Bradley, Sid, and Marty: A Conversation with the Kroffts" (23 minutes) has director Silberling interviewing the creators of the original show. They talk about the history of the show and how it has persisted.
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long