Land of the Lost ~ ”Marshall, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition, met the greatest earthquake ever known…”
And so began the opening of one of the more innovative series ever to grace Saturday mornings. Created by Sid and Marty Krofft, notorious for Saturday morning kids fare that seemed to be acid-induced like “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Lidsville” and “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” “Land of the Lost” was different.
The series, in the first two seasons at least (we will not speak of the Uncle Jack episodes), featured a solid science fiction premise, which is no wonder with folks like David Gerrold, Larry Niven, Ben Bova, D.C. Fontana, Norman Spinrad, Theodore Sturgeon and Walter Koenig involved in its production.
The premise involved a family on a camping vacation dropped into a place outside of time and space, structured by dimensional portals that controlled every aspect of the world, which was populated by dinosaurs, cave people called Pakuni (the writers even created a 200-word language for them) and hissing lizard-like inhabitants called Sleestak. The world had a very precise internal continuity and logic, and the well-written stories (despite the drinking game that can be had every time someone yells the kids’ names or Dad touches one of them) more than made up for the sometimes less-than-adequate special effects. This was the 1970s after all.
The show is held in high regard by many, including comedian Will Ferrell, who coincidentally played a character named Federal Wildlife Marshal Willenholly in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Now, in this 2009 feature film version of “Land of the Lost,” he gets to play the real thing.
Now, I’ve never been a fan of Ferrell’s comedy, either on “Saturday Night Live” or in film (although I did like his semi-serious turns in Winter Passing and Stranger than Fiction), so I was a bit distressed when I heard he would be starring in this obviously comedic take on the classic scifi series. It should also be noted, and not forgotten, he also had a hand in another TV remake for the big screen – the better-off-forgotten Bewitched.
The preview was at the dreaded Cherry Hill AMC Loews, where it was sponsored by at least four media outlets. WXPN (the only terrestrial radio station in town worth listening to any more) gave us the passes but they weren’t there. Glenn Kalina, now doing mornings for 97.5 Now, has looked better, and seemed so thrilled doing the pre-show trivia and giveaways. Maybe a bit more caffeine, Glenn.
Vittoria from the ‘CW Crew’ had considerably more energy, as did the nameless dude from WMMR. And props to him too for telling people to turn their damned cellphones off. I also had issue with one of his trivia questions. He asked what MMR stood for and took the answer ‘Means More Rock’ – but really, isn’t the answer ‘Metro Media Radio’?
The film begins (and ends) with the Matt Lauer bit that we’ve all seen in the previews, and thus starts the pattern of every other typical Will Ferrell slob comedy. All my hopes from seeing interviews from Sid and Marty Krofft that this was “a respectable, serious take” on their property are dashed pretty quickly on. When pee-pee and poo-poo jokes are given more screen time than the actual plot or character development, the truth is pretty much splashed on the wall.
There are a couple funny bits, I’ll admit it. Chaka is a hoot, and a far cry from the innocent ape-child of the TV series. And Leonard Nimoy doing his best George Takei impersonation while voicing the Zarn is hilarious. What hurts most is that this could have been a serious adaptation. The effects are here, and so are all the elements. It’s all here. Fans of the show can see all the trademarks of the show – Pylons, Sleestak, the Library of Skulls, the Pakuni language, Grumpy, Alice, the Altrusian moths, even Holly’s Dopey speech. It’s all here.
Anna Friel, of “Pushing Daisies,” using her real accent for once is fun, as is Danny McBride of HBO’s “Eastbound & Down.” And I really liked the revamping of the Sleestak, nice updated design. This film is similar to “Smallville” when compared to its source material, the old Superboy comic books. Some of the names and situations are the same – but it’s completely different.
This was an okay movie for free, and funny and fun occasionally. Will Ferrell fans will love it, unfortunately I’m not one of them.
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