Lost in translation
An obscure cult TV series becomes a barmy summer blockbuster, writes Donald Clarke
LORD SAVE US from nostalgically minded studio executives. The generation who enjoyed the obscure 1970s television series that inspired this strange, strange film are, I would guess, now at precisely the right age to start making big decisions in Hollywood’s boardrooms.
Mention Land of the Lost to a panel of Americans born around 1962 and they will, no doubt, pound the table excitedly and bang together their Blackberries in approval. Meanwhile, the rest of the world shrugs. Land of the . . . what’s that you say?
To add to the bewilderment, the film-makers have decided to make some of the film (only some of the film, mind) look like a pastiche of Nixon-era television. So, a few monsters are dressed in ill-fitting rubber suits and the backgrounds look a little like crude matte paintings. Yet the dinosaurs are animated using the finest CGI, and the humour is from the contemporary Frat Pack school. This might be the barmiest attempt at a midsummer blockbuster we have yet seen.
Mind you, barmy is preferable to boring, and some of the film’s zanier moments are far from disagreeable. We begin with a genuinely hilarious prologue in which Will Ferrell’s pompous scientist tries to convince a TV interviewer that he has uncovered the secret of time travel. After being thrown out of the studio, he sees his career implode and sinks into food addiction and self-pity.
Some time later, perky boffin Anna Friel turns up to shake him out of his torpor and, utilising a device cobbled together from old iPods and even older biscuit tins, they transport themselves to an alternate universe where dinosaurs compete for living space with lizard men and missing links.
What were they thinking? Amusingly smug Ferrell and divertingly dumb Danny McBride (sidekick du jour) work well together, and the film does make a virtue of its own tackiness. But Land of the Lost, which cost $100 million (¤70 million) to make, is so unfocused – lewd boob jokes one minute, cutesy kids’ stuff the next – that it was never going to amass any kind of significant audience. Indeed, I imagine the core demographic as eight middle-aged men scattered randomly about the continental US.
Enjoy it, guys. They won’t be making The Banana Splits movie anytime soon.
Danny McBride, Will Ferrell and Anna Friel in Land of the Lost