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Movie Review: ‘Land’ of the Witless

Stay lost from "Land of the Lost." Some childhood TV shows should remain just that, pleasant memories from years long ago.

For every decent small-screen transition to big-screen like "Get Smart" and "Bewitched," there are disasters like "The Honeymooners" and this morosely unfunny "Land of the Lost."

Will Ferrell, who plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a quantum paleontologist, whatever that is, needs another cinematic life. His "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," in which he was a noxious San Diego TV news reader, and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," an homage to Nascar Nation, were lovable and humorous.

But did there have to be "Blades of Glory" and "Step Brothers"? Recently returning to "Saturday Night Live," Ferrell's vintage sketches like Alex Trebek hosting "Celebrity Jeopardy!" or the impression of Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray being even more unintelligible, elicited only smiles of bright moments past.

The USC grad who grew up in Irvine, Calif., can act. Check out "Stranger Than Fiction" or his recent, brilliant Broadway show, broadcast on HBO, "You're Welcome, America — A Final Night With George W. Bush." He doesn't need the indulgence of something so unfunny as "Land of the Lost."

For openers, despite a reported $100 million production budget, the special effects looked cheap. Maybe they were supposed to — homage to the funky old TV show where the zippers for the pajama-like jumpsuits costumes on Sleestak, the reptilian humanoid monsters, were visible. But bugs crawling onto Ferrell's hirsute body and a roaring tyrannosaur were simply not frightening.

In the TV show, it was a family facing peril after tumbling into a time-travel world. In the movie, it's Ferrell, a British grad student from Cambridge (Anna Friel) and a grungy amusement park/fireworks proprietor (Danny McBride).

McBride's an acquired taste, carving out an acting milieu as a foul-mouthed and ignorant boob who will say or do anything. Occasionally, his profane presence works, like the faded ballplayer who returns to his hometown in HBO's "Eastbound & Down" or with Seth Rogen and James Franco as a trio of crazed drug buddies in "Pineapple Express." McBride does get off a pretty funny "weed" line in "Land of the Lost" that doesn't, gratefully, get lost.

The movie is framed by two Ferrell appearances with Matt Lauer on "The Today Show" in which both bombastic participants — the scientist and the host — insult each other and brawl. Lauer is savvy, working well with Ferrell to create two uproarious bits that seem lifted from a TV sketch.

Not so funny is the splashing of dinosaur urine over Ferrell's head as a repellent and something about the word "tunic."

Throughout, there's music emanating from Ferrell's Tachyon Amplifier contraption, which plays tunes from "A Chorus Line" when it should be guiding to another world.

This must have seemed like an inside joke to the picture's half-dozen or so producers. To borrow from the play's song, "I Hope I Get It," whom in the movie's intended youthful audience is going to get it?

For those who grew up with TV's "Land of the Lost," carrying Sleestak lunch-boxes to school, keep those fond memories intact. Don't let this "Land of the Lost" soil them.

"Land of the Lost." Rated: PG-13. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. 1.5 stars.

To find out more about Lee Grant and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

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