Lost in trans­la­tion

An ob­scure cult TV se­ries be­comes a barmy sum­mer block­buster, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

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

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