Friday, June 5, 2009
Movie review: Land of the Lost
Where in the Land of the Lost is Matt Lauer?
In the era during which I was an "inquisitive youth," a fellow was forced to seek out a late-night TV showing of a Bergman film (on one of those odd UHF channels that required careful manipulation of the circular antenna) in order to see a guy fondling a girl's boob. And - in the context of the Bergman film - the event lost much of its titillation value.
In Land of the Lost, the PG-13 Will Ferrell comedy based on a cheesy TV series from the '70's, grad student Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) gets her boobs felt up for more total screentime than all the heroines in the combined Bergman oeuvre. But it's done for yucks and thus, one supposes, inoffensive to all but the bluenosed.
Which is more than can be said for most of the rest of the movie's content - be it scatological, sexual or chauvinistic - of all of which there is plenty.
As I've elsewhere admitted, I'm not a big fan of Ferrell's work, which will no doubt disturb him not a whit as he navigates towards the banking center in his stretch limo with the bags of bundled cash he'll be earning from this role, regardless of how the movie does at the box office. So I'm not at all squeamish about siding with Matt Lauer here.
Lauer, see, makes a guest appearance in the movie as himself, interviewing the obnoxious, egotistical Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) on The Today Show about his theory of tachyon-driven interdimensional time-space travel. Lauer turns in an engaging performance which, if it weren't for Anna Friel's, would qualify for the best of the film. He's a cynical interviewer with little respect for this pretentious blow-hard know-it-all that the show's producers have saddled him with, and he ends up taking the guy down several notches below ground level. (You go, Matt!)
Marshall ends up making grandiose, Strauss-scored presentations to fifth graders, who afford him the level of respect he deserves. (If he were smarter than a fifth grader, he wouldn't be there.)
All's going well (i.e., Marshall is coming to grips with his own total and profound WASTEHOOD) when along comes a perky, pretty Cambridge graduate student named Holly (the aforementioned Friel) who, for no logical reason, thinks Marshall is the intellectual cat's meow and really has it on the ball with all his tachyon time travel horseshit. (Well, there is one logical reason, and it involves the fossilized impression of a BIG CAT cigarette lighter found next to a trilobite.)
Holly's improbable support wrenches Marshall out of his self-actualized funk and he sets out along with his comely new colleague to prove that his pimped up boom box - in addition to playing "gay" show tunes - can transport people into other dimensional realms. Such as the land of rubber suited lizard men and Tyrannosaurs with brains the size of walnuts (Mesozoic walnuts, that is) where they eventually wind up.
Holly and Marshall discover that the bestest tachyonic waves emanate from a defunct tourist attraction in the middle-of-nowhere desert near where Holly found the cigarette lighter fossil. This joint is run by a loserish yet offensive chap named Will (Danny McBride), who naturally - being both loserish AND offensive - manages to hitch a ride aboard the tachyon stream with Holly and Marshall when they journey through the magical interdimensional portal. (Which looks like a waterfall to really bright lower region).
Once safely arrived in the aforementioned realm of lizard men, Tyrannosaurs and big walnuts, the scatological, sexual and chauvinistic-themed humor really starts to flow - though seldom beyond a fifth grade level. The trio meets up with an ape-dude named Chaka (Jorma Taccone, giving both Matt Lauer and Anna Friel a run for their "best actor in the movie" money) who demonstrates a real fondness for Holly's boobs. (Ref. the Bergman anecdote.) In addition, Chaka knows his way around this sector of the dimensional spectrum, and so - aided by the fact that Holly can somehow understand his primitive hominid lingo - he serves as a sort of tourguide for the group.
I haven't yet given this film the credit it deserves, in that I've thusfar failed to mention the numerous grossouts bestowed upon us by the filmmakers (including director Brad Silberling and writers Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas). Here's a few of them:
* urine baths
* enormous bug blisters (which pop, naturally)
* important devices embedded in dinosaur poop
Oh, and Farrell's character sings and plays the banjo. Which I consider pretty much over the top in terms of grossouts.
There are a lot of unbelievable story elements in Land of the Lost - interdimensional travel, dinosaurs who understand English, Leonard Nimoy in a lizard suit - but none is as difficult to believe as the thought that a woman like Holly would find herself attracted to a man like Rick Marshall. She'd be far more likely to set up housekeeping with Chaka - at least there's the element of animal attraction in play.
All of which (or much of it, anyway) could be forgiven if the movie was actually particularly funny. Which is isn't. Even though it seems to think we should THINK that it is.
(Guess that makes it more fantasy than science fiction.)
SO WHAT HAPPENED THE FIRST TWO TIMES?: "I moved tres times to be closer to a Ruby Tuesdays." - Will
AND NEITHER DO I: "Science shows no mercy - and neither do I." - Marshall, to lizard-suited leader Enik (John Boylan)