Doing a broadly comic take on the very goofy 1970s children’s TV show Land of the Lost seems to fit into the mini-trend within TV show comedy remakes, exemplified by films like The Brady Bunch. 2009’s Land of the Lost remake, however, never fully commits to this idea. Instead it’s a sort of mishmash of straightforward update of the original show and effects film, sex and bodily function comedy with Will Ferrell (Elf) and Danny McBride (All the Real Girls) doing the respective shticks, with only a tiny amount of the parody of the original show one would expect.
Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a “quantum paleontologist” that wants to solve the energy crisis by taping into the power of alternate universes (what, exactly, this has to do with paleontology it’s best not to ask). After humiliating himself on Today with Matt Lauer (synergy!), Marshall ends up a laughing-stock, and working with unruly, foul-mouthed middle school students (Bobb’e J. Thompson does his “foul-mouthed dirty minded kid” shtick from Role Models) at the La Brea Tar Pits, until young idealistic scientist Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies), who believes in his theories, and has found evidence of them at a tourist trap run by Will Stanton (McBride). She gets him to complete his device and they go to test it in the field-but an accident sucks them, along with McBride into “The Land of the Lost”. There they run into prehistoric beasts, dangerous but slow-moving Sleestaks, and horny ape-man Chaka (SNL writer Jorma Taccone), who will spend the movie touching Holly inappropriately.
The film is basically an episodic series of set-ups for jokes and effects, none of which really come off well. The worst parts are where the film does the standard event film kind of “we have to save the universe” plot; it never really clicks and the meandering comedy parts work better. McBride really puts in a lot of effort and scores some laughs, but Ferrell just seems tired and doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen him do better before. Fans of the original series may enjoy seeing the FX updates (the Sleestak suits look great) and the points where it is referenced, but this is basically “lazy weekend afternoon on cable” viewing at best.