land of the lost

Land of the Lost, despite a bankable star and some heavy-duty marketing, failed to make any money. It also wasn’t very good. Does this mean we’re done finally done with these comedic adaptations of classic TV shows?

Probably not, but the spectacular failure of the Will Ferrell’s latest star vehicle (which compares unfavorably to last year’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, both in substance and tone) should be a wake up call to someone. It’s easy enough to recycle story ideas, but isn’t it all for naught if you can’t even turn the easy profit?

Brad Silberling (City of Angels, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) is, as you can tell from those credits, an unusual choice to direct a comedy, even one as effects laden as this one. And he gets very little out of comedic stalwarts Will Ferrell and Danny McBride in Land of the Lost. The film is not devoid of laughs, of course, as Ferrell can tease out a joke with pure charisma. What Silberling doesn’t do is ask for anything extra out of his actors, and he doesn’t receive anything either; he’s focused too heavily on a not-so-great story, which is probably not an audience’s chief interest.

Especially since Land of the Lost deviates so strongly from Sid and Marty Krofft’s original series. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) is a paleontologist disgraced after a Today Show interview brands him a crackpot; in the series, Marshall is a forest ranger. Will (McBride) and Holly (Anna Friel), Marshall’s children in the original, are a deadbeat gift shop owner and a sycophantic graduate student, respectively. Friel develops into Ferrell’s unlikely love interest.

When Ferrell’s time travel device (the tachyon amplifier, nerds) thrusts the triad into a mystical world filled with strange creatures and cultural residue from the contemporary age, the fun (whatever fun there is) is on. That’s when you start to wonder where the money (reportedly $100 million) went. The sets look cheap, and the creatures are fairly unsophisticated. The reptilian sleestaks even look like the sleestaks from the series. That’s a lot of money tossed away on rubber suits.

There’s always a question in these adaptations with where to draw the line between updating the original and paying homage to it. Land of the Lost looks to have it both ways, trying to look like the original, only bigger. There’s enough bloat on this film to detract from what could have been a half-decent comedy.

Silberling and crew lost focus, lost their humor, and, it appears, lost a lot of money.

Film: Land of the Lost
Director: Brad Silberling
Stars: Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride, Jorma Taccone, Matt Lauer

Viewing situation: Weekday matinee, small crowd; digital projection
My grade (out of 10): 4
Rotten Tomatoes average: 28%

Next up: Imagine That

Summer Movie Suicide Mission ’09: Seeing them all, all summer long. Follow Summer Movie Suicide Mission on Twitter: @SMSM09.