Three words which normally guarantee a box-office hit are: comedy, Will and Ferrell. There are a few others that enhance the recipe, but generally these are the primary ingredients. Until now.
Based on the American 1970s TV show, 'Land of the Lost' features a self-titled Quantum Palaeontologist Dr Rick Marshall (Ferrell) whose outlandish theories and unusual approach ostracise him from respected scientific society. However, one Cambridge science student who has remained loyal to his school of thought, and been expelled for the privilege, is Holly (Friel). Together they create Marshall's machine (the tachyon amplifier) which allows access to parallel dimensions - a time machine that travels sideways into unexplored worlds co-existing in the universe. They succeed and soon find themselves, along with Danny McBride's cracked fireworks salesman-come-tour-guide Will, in the Land of the Lost.
The world is filled with lizard-like aliens or Sleestaks, dinosaurs, Neolithic folk and all manner of dangerous prehistoric insects. Once there and after they collect a variety of data, their primary objective is finding a way home. So far, so pedantic.
This is an old premise but with Ferrell’s involvement you’d think it would at least be a lot of fun along the way. With a cheap style and clunky and clichéd dialogue, it’s not only the land that is lost, so is Ferrell. Adapted from the played-straight TV show, it was always going to be a struggle to see this as a comedy and how he would pull this off. Bless his curly locks as it's difficult to look at him without laughing for long and it’s his presence alone which pulls this film back from one-star territory. Still, without the help of 'Lemony Snicket' director Silberling, he doesn't get very far.
The plot is incoherent, more akin to a series of sketches - none more amusing than the previous and executed by nonsensical characters. This results in a nonsense story - a playground filled with old sets and aliens in zip-on kitsch costumes and dodgy CG dinosaurs. The scientific aspect is as believable as the effects, which brings a longing for the original TV show.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad. The best scene appears early on, with Marshall being interviewed by a real-life NBC 'Today' presenter, Matt Lauer. Another features a topless Ferrell (not quite Frank the Tank style but it had to be in there somewhere) dancing and singing a chorus tune as a lullaby to hundreds of baby dinosaurs! Just as it is in most of his films, it's Ferrell's struggle to hide his inner child and morph into the hero everyone expects him to be that is the real rib tickler.
As Ferrell's sidekick, McBride, last seen scene stealing in 'Pineapple Express', brings oodles of innuendo to the table. Not very appropriate as family entertainment but will certainly entertain the pre-teeners. The unPC racist, poo, pee and boob gags will insult as many as they entertain, and not just because they're crass but because they're so badly delivered.
Friel is tightly tethered to the eye candy store, as a scantily clad English crumpet. She is the butt and boob of McBride and his ape-boy sidekick Cha-ka's (Taccone) dirty jokes. Hardly a confidence builder for the young, female members of the audience.
The film bombed in the States and bombed bad. With a budget of $100m and grossing only $40m, it’s hard to see, especially in the current climate, how Ferrell will green light another high concept comedy. He may be a great comic actor but a miracle worker he isn't. 'Land of the Lost' lacks the foundation of a quality, structured story evident in his other 'Anchorman' or 'Old School' greats. This is definitely one to wait for on DVD and hopefully it'll be worth saving sense/cents for Ferrell's next outing alongside 'The Hangover's Ed Helms, 'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard'. They'll need to.