Based on the 1970s TV show, Land of the Lost tells of a man and his two children who are trapped on an alien planet inhabited by dinosaurs, cavemen and reptilian creatures.
The dewy-eyed affection with which Americans regard Land Of The Lost, Sid and Marty Krofft’s shonky Saturday-morning staple from the early ’70s, ensured that a big-screen version was an inevitability. And, on paper, the show, in which a father and two kids are whisked into a parallel dimension populated by stop-motion dinosaurs, creepy lizard-men and gibberish-spouting primates, has plenty to recommend it. Dinosaurs are always good value, of course, and LOTL boasts a bunch of them, including a super-intelligent T-rex with a grudge named Grumpy. Plus, the show’s inherent cheesiness — a product of limited budget and the Krofft brothers’ trademarked wigginess — offers prime potential for broad comedy with a generous pinch of nostalgia thrown in. Sadly, then, director Brad Silberling’s amped-up adaptation falls short of expectations.
It’s a little hard to pinpoint exactly why. There’s nothing wrong with the cast — Ferrell, as disgraced paleontologist Dr. Rick Marshall, adds another puffed-up buffoon to his collection; Danny McBride is as reliable as ever in wiseass redneck mode; and Anna Friel adds both sex appeal and Northern grit as a plucky Cambridge grad ostracised for her faith in Marshall’s crackpot theories. There are some serviceable set-pieces and a couple of good gross-out gags — Ferrell unwittingly drained of blood by a disgustingly engorged bug, for instance — and it has the look of an expertly made big-budget blockbuster. The FX are state-of-the-art when they need to be, faux-shonky when they don’t — the villainous Sleestak are quite obviously men in suits, which is just as it should be.
The problem is, it spreads itself far too thin, trying to please so many demographics that it ends up not fully satisfying any. And as it turns into a mush of uneven tones — try explaining the scene where Ferrell and McBride are tripping balls on the local narcotic to an eight-year-old — the overriding impression is of a great deal of money not terribly well spent. You can’t help thinking that with a little more heart and a little less outlay it might have captured the kooky spirit of the Krofft original. As it stands, it’s adequate, in the sense that Night At The Museum or a Big Mac are adequate. But something definitely got lost in translation.
Humdrum adaptation that should, given the ripe nature of its source material, have been much better.