Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: With the summer movie season upon us, it’s time to sing the praises of some unsung and underrated summer blockbusters.
Land Of The Lost (2009)
Will Ferrell is an anomaly among big comedy stars in that many of his biggest hits are also among his best work. Against considerable odds, his idiosyncratic series of comic experiments with Adam McKay have outgrossed his occasional would-be blockbusters. Land Of The Lost represents perhaps his most notable failure in the latter regard. It’s an effects-laden adaptation of an old TV show, and it landed with a thud in 2009, overshadowed by the runaway success of The Hangover.
But while Land Of The Lost isn’t a true McKay picture (he’s only credited as an executive producer), it harnesses some of his and Ferrell’s lunatic sensibility, then drops it into a surreal world of dinosaurs, monkey-people, and Sleestak. The actor plays Dr. Marshall, reconfigured as a crackpot paleontologist cursed—in typical Ferrell form—with dueling hubris and insecurity. That character tweak is the first decision of many that keeps the movie weird. The modern summer blockbuster tends to sanitize its material for a family audience, but Land Of The Lost goes in the opposite direction, turning the original characters of Marshall’s kids, Will and Holly, into an uncouth survivalist played by Danny McBride and a peppy love interest played by Anna Friel, respectively. This probably didn’t help the movie’s box office, but it lends it a time-warped mischievousness.
The grab-bag production design (including vast deserts, jungle temples, and dinosaur-laden mountains) enhances that feeling. In assembling a big-budget version of a low-budget landscape, the filmmakers rely on some over-computerized summer-movie effects shots. But many of said effects are appealingly cheesy—or surprisingly tactile, as when dinosaurs chase Marshall, Will, and Holly through a sun-bleached desert junkyard of random detritus. (This sequence includes a neat unbroken shot of Ferrell fleeing in and out of an abandoned Hummer limo). If the primary dinosaur looks cartoony, it’s appropriate, as the Tyrannosaurus forms a hilariously adversarial relationship with Marshall, like something out of Looney Tunes. Land Of The Lost doesn’t have the satirical edge or voracious joke-topping of Ferrell’s best movies; it does, after all, set out to make a blockbuster movie out of an old kids’ TV show. It does, however, show off a gratifyingly silly approach to its already ludicrous task at hand.
Availability: Land Of The Lost is available on Blu-ray and DVD, which can be obtained through Netflix, or to rent or purchase through the major digital services.