'Lost' ambles along in its own universe

OK, I've never been that enamored with the original "Land of the Lost" or most of Sid and Marty Krofft's trippy, they-must've-been-on-that-stuff-when-they-came-up-with-this Saturday-morning shows from the '70s. I was much more a fan of their '80s work. (A friend recently reminded me they were the guys who produced "Pryor's Place," Richard Pryor's short-lived Saturday-morning show that I was beginning to think was an ongoing hallucination I had as a kid.)

You don't have to know anything about the original "Land of the Lost" show to watch its big-screen remake, which is hitting theaters today. And, to be honest, it's best if you weren't a fan, since I'm certain devotees of the show will walk away feeling the filmmakers have taken their precious "Land" and used it as a springboard for gay jokes and bodily-waste humor.

"Land" is less a faithful reimagining (although in-jokes abound) and more a chance for Will Ferrell to do his usual imbecilic act while running away from computer-generated, prehistoric creatures. He's Dr. Rick Marshall, a paleontologist whose time-travel theories make him a laughingstock in mainstream science. (Actually, getting into a heavily YouTubed scuffle with a game Matt Lauer on the "Today" show officially turns him into a laughingstock.)

Writers Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas (since this is a Ferrell film, I can't help but think that his trusted partner-in-crime Adam McKay did a script polish) tinker considerably with the original story. Instead of Marshall and his two kids, Holly and Will, stumbling into a strange, new hybrid dimension, the kids are now full-grown, unrelated adults. Holly is now a Brit research assistant (Anna Friel) who is quite the hottie in a tank top and short-shorts, while Will (Danny McBride) is a hustling, white-trash survivalist who gets accidentally dragged along for the ride. All three get sucked into a space-time vortex, courtesy of Marshall's "tachyon amplifier" (which also plays selections from "A Chorus Line").

To appease fans, they throw in dinosaurs, villainous Sleestaks and Chaka, the cute, furry, primate sidekick who's now something of a sexually ambiguous horndog. (He's played here by Jorma Taccone, a "Saturday Night Live" writer and member of Andy Samberg's increasingly powerful Lonely Island troupe.)

I don't know if it was director Brad Silberling's intention to make "Land" look as tacky as the show did back in the '70s, but he succeeds on that level. Even with computer-generated effects, the movie has a brazenly unsophisticated, shamelessly cheap vibe, visually and verbally. The only difference between this and the show is the movie's lack of charming kitschiness.

Once again, the movie's all about Ferrell giving audiences another clueless hero to root for. Ferrell's confident-idiot shtick gets a bit tiring, especially since it clashes with his character, who's supposed to be a scientific genius. ("Land" appears to be Ferrell's most blatantly meta attempt to remind audiences how deceptively brilliant his brand of crude, crass comedy is.) While the audience I was watching the movie with heartily laughed at the uneven collection of gross-out gags (such as Ferrell purposely dousing himself with, and ingesting, dinosaur urine), the movie didn't get remotely funny for me until the second half -- and that's mostly because of McBride, working that same vulgar, unrepentant redneck attitude he applies to nearly every role. (Needless to say, I'm a big "Eastbound & Down" fan.) McBride practically eclipses Ferrell in the hilariously inappropriate behavior department in this movie. I'm starting to worry about Will. When Ferrell pulled out a banjo halfway through, a chill went down my spine. It made me wonder: is Will Ferrell trying to be the new Steve Martin?

Anyway, for a movie about the scattered remnants of space and time ending up in one place, "Land" feels exactly as it looks. It's like the filmmakers pitifully scrounged together whatever narrative elements, jokes and special effects they could get to barely put together this movie. To quote one dead-on Twitterer who saw the movie, "Land of the Lost" is awesome if you like random.

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