Thursday, October 15, 2009

LAND OF THE LOST makes DVDebut; it's a lot more fun than you've heard (or read)

Reviews for LAND OF THE LOST were generally so terrible that we almost skipped it auto-
matically. I should know better. Film-
wise, I've found "automatic" to be an unproductive setting because it robs me of the occasional surprise "find."
OK: Brad Silberling's film is no classic -- not even a "camp" classic. But over a weekend during which we watched two other much more highly "approved"

films -- the wildly popular The Proposal (two fine lead per-
formances but a screenplay that alternates clever with crappy) and critics' darling Drag Me to Hell (bearable but only that: when will the severely unoriginal Sam Raimi stop being over-rated?), Land proved the most fun by far.

Silberling, shown at right, has made a string of hit and miss movies, from the cloying City of Angels and Moonlight Mile to a surprisingly smart and juicily visual adaptation of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and the lovely little 10 Items or Less. He man-
ages to imbue this film with the spirit of a 70s kids' TV series while cleverly guiding it into our new century's roster of special effects.

TrustMovies never watched the original Sid & Marty Krofft TV series from the 70s, but this new film seems to incorporate much of what he's heard about the series: time warps, dinosaurs, Sleestak (you'll find out) and the like. The movie also possesses a quality relatively rare these days: a childlike sense of adventure that's simultaneously silly and sweet. One thing after another occurs, with only a remote connection to... forget reality, just simple plot mechanics. Yet it is this very sense of childish anarchy that make the movie so much fun. Anything can happen and often does: dinosaurs can be intelligent, scary and helpful; a tunic may auger betrayal; and A Chorus Line offers up a song that's even more fun (though far less touching) than the Hello Dolly number managed to be for Wall-E.

The movie this Land may most remind you of, though it is better in every way, is the recent and paltry remake of Journey to the Center of the Earth: The cast is small and the dinosaur fierce (if a bit too fake). The backgrounds are mostly CGI effects with the difference that, here, the backgrounds are creative, especially the desert full of bizarre juxtapositions (see above) in which the film's small cast finds itself. Our heroes, a plucky threesome played by Will Ferrell (bottom, left), Anna Friel (bottom, right) and Danny McBride (bottom, center), are soon joined by monkey man Jorma Taccone (below, right) and do the usual squabbling, sparring and splitting up, only to rejoin and aid each other in the clinch. So the movie provides what children dearly love: to be put into danger and then rescued from it. Adults may find their inner child reacting to this, too, as well as to one very funny scene of drug-induced male bonding (it's OK: this is from a strange desert plant the guys discover) leading to a night of fun and its accompanying morning-after "On, no -- what did we do?" recriminations.

The special effects tread a nice line between the real-enough-to-be-a-little-scary and the goofy-enough-to-be-silly and thus ensure family fun. As I say, the movie's no master-
piece, but it is certainly a lot better than the reviews and word-of
-mouth might indicate. Take a chance when you're in the mood for some loony, escapist adventure and/or when the youngsters comes to visit.

Land of the Lost made its DVD debut this past Tuesday.
(All photos are from the film,
with the exception of that of Mr. Silberling.)


GHJ - said...

Land of the Lost more fun than Drag Me To Hell? I don't know Jim, I found Land of the Lost to be a mess from beginning to end, almost spastic and silly for no other reason than to be spastic and silly. And I think Drag Me To Hell is a critics darling for a reason, because it's got plenty to mull over and continuously demented, including some razor sharp themes (the impact of money, greed, guilt) and a deliriously unhappy ending. What were your main problems with Raimi's film?

James van Maanen, said...

Spastic and silly? Yes! I guess that's what made me appreciate it. There's a giddiness about the film that nothing else of late comes close to. As for "Drag Me," yup, all those themes you mention are there but what Raimi does with them seems to me to be next to nothing. Granted there's little time for exploration in a movie devoted to one "scare" on top of another (and yes, the scene in the parking lot is wonderfully over-the-top). But that unhappy ending seems so predetermined that he might as well have started with it and worked backward (maybe he did). I do love Alison Lohman, however. Perhaps my inner child needed more release than usual over this past weekend. I'll try to bring back the adult over this one... Loved your "Still Walking" review, by the way

GHJ - said...

Thanks Jim. Appreciate it. I forgot to mention Lohman's performance! Which i think is the best female turn of the year. Just genius.

James van Maanen, said...

BEST OF THE YEAR? Wow! Well, she was very good. Did you ever see her in THE BIG WHITE? Another overlooked and under-rated movie in which Lohman shines.