Love it or hate it, there is nothing subtle about Will Ferrell’s comedic style. Sometimes his brazen cluelessness can take a clever script and turn it into classic comedy that only improves with each viewing (“Anchorman” and “Old School” are two examples I am willing to stand by).
But without a solid story to stand on, Farrell’s talent shrinks back to the size of the TV screen, reminding you of those desperate-seeming comedy sketches that round out the last half-hour of “Saturday Night Live.” If you want an example, just go see his latest release, “Land of the Lost.”
Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a blowhard scientist dedicated to exploring the mysteries of time travel. His research and cockiness cost him his reputation and career, but a visit from beautiful graduate student Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) renews his faith in his theories and she convinces him to take a routine expedition to test them out.
They are guided into a cave by a trashy souvenir salesman (Danny McBride) and, before the threesome knows what’s happened, they find themselves dropped into an alternative reality populated with dinosaurs, monkey-men, and lizard people right out of a 1950s B horror movie.
Although it only ran for three seasons in the mid-1970s, the original “Land of the Lost” television series has become somewhat of a cult classic over the years. But what worked for this episodic children’s television series is butchered in this translation to the big screen.
Instead of creating an interesting story to guide us through the explorers’ adventures and mishaps in this strange land, the filmmakers opted for silly sitcomlike sketches, barely held together by a worthless thread of a story.
Instead of creating lovable, funny characters that you might actually root for, the filmmakers force you to spend 93 minutes with stupid, slack-jawed men who are barely distinguishable from their dirty-minded monkey counterpart Chaka (Jorma Taccone), and a female lead (Friel) who offers no worthwhile counterbalance.
The end product is a mostly unfunny movie that is far too simplistic and inane for the adult audience the studio is likely courting - the generation that grew up watching the series. Though kids will certainly enjoy the film’s stellar visual effects (the sets and dinosaurs are truly a spectacle), the script is loaded with enough inappropriate innuendo and drug references to make most parents with younger children uncomfortable.
OK, so a Will Ferrell movie isn’t supposed to be loaded with meaning and compelling storylines. But it is supposed to keep you laughing. “Land of the Lost” delivers a few shocked guffaws in the set up, almost entirely surrounding Ferrell’s puffed up ignorance and Chaka’s inappropriate groping, but it quickly becomes apparent that this film has little else up its sleeve. Even the characters seem to catch on.
At one point McBride shouts at Ferrell as he is yet again suffering the consequences of his stupidity, “Don’t you ever get tired of being wrong?” Yes, we do.
‘Land of the Lost’-Rated PG-13
-Opens June 5