I never thought I'd be defending a Will Ferrell movie that wasn't called Anchorman, but goddamn, Land of the Lost is getting a lot of hate that it doesn't deserve. First there were the reviews, and then there was the none-too-impressive opening weekend.
Make no mistake: Land of the Lost is hardly brilliant cinema. But it's summertime, goddammit, when I'm not looking for brilliant cinema—when I go to a movie this time of year, I'm looking for something that, above all else, is fun. Hence my delighted squeals during Drag Me to Hell's amazing parking garage and séance scenes, and my genuine exuberance throughout much of Up, and the steady stream of geek endorphins that coursed through me during all of Star Trek. (And also, hence my general grumpiness with all things related to Terminator Salvation, and hence the suicide watch a few friends had to put me on after X-Men Origins: Wolverine.) When it comes to cinema's fun quotient, it's been a mixed summer so far—but I can honestly say that one of the movies I've enjoyed the most in the past few months was the fantastically goofy, surprisingly weird Land of the Lost.
I'm too young to have ever watched the TV show that the film is based on (and by most accounts, there's really no need to bother revisiting it), and besides, the TV show's opening tells everyone more or less all they need to know about it. Which is fine, 'cause I'm more concerned about the film, and so is Land of the Lost's director, Brad Silberling: "Even though I love the show, I purposefully prepared for [the film] without revisiting the old series," he told the Wall Street Journal (which later called his film a "dramatically, thematically and artistically bankrupt comic fantasy"). "I wanted to work purely off my memory, and recapture the essence and cool factor of what I loved as a kid."
Which is exactly what the big-screen Land of the Lost feels like: A dude remembering cool stuff about a TV show he watched as a kid, and keeping only those elements while ditching the rest. Rather than paying respect to a TV series that really doesn't deserve any, Silberling's film takes all of the trademark elements of the show—a stupid-but-fun concept, Technicolor sets that look like they've been carved out of Styrofoam, six-foot-tall lizards that awkwardly stomp around in rubber costumes—and runs with them, never bothering to explain or justify any of it. Land of the Lost feels impressively trippy and bizarre, and refreshingly unconcerned with plot or backstory: On one hand, you've got Will Ferrell doing his usual shtick (and, thankfully, seeming to give a shit about it this time, unlike any number of his sports comedies) and Danny McBride being awesome as usual, but then you've also got weird drug freak-out scenes, plenty of Anchorman-esque ad-libbing, preposterous set pieces (most of them involving CG dinosaurs and/or the creepy little pervert monkey Chaka, who's played by The Lonely Island's Jorma Taccone), and a general sense of cartoonish weirdness. The whole movie has this contagious, can-you-believe-we-actually-got-a-movie-studio-to-pay-us-to-make-this vibe, and unlike the family comedy it's being (poorly) marketed as, Land of the Lost feels much more like a surreal stoner comedy along the lines of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle or Dude, Where's My Car?. But with dinosaurs.
So yeah. I'm not recommending you rush out and spend $12 to see Land of the Lost at one of Regal's overpriced theaters or anything, but when it gets to the Laurelhurst or whatever? Give it a shot. Despite what most of the reviews and the film's underwhelming box office would have you believe, one could do a lot worse than having a few too many beers and getting some friends together to watch Will Ferrell duel a tyrannosaur.