Synopsis: A down-on-his-luck scientist finds a way to travel into an alternate universe.
About: Brad Silbering is directing. The guy who, I believe, did Lemony Snicket.
Writers: Chris Henchey & Dennis McNicholas
Can I just say how much I hate the 70s? Can I just say how much I hate when people try to make fun of the 70s? I never understood why people enjoyed making fun of this decade. It’s inherently ridiculous and funny all by itself. The mustaches. The feathery hair. It’s like trying to make fun of George Bush. He’s already a moron. So you trying to exaggerate how much of a moron he is isn’t funny. Which makes any TV show or movie centered around the 70s a TV show or movie I won’t watch. Which brings me to Anchorman. When my friends talk about how hilarious this movie is, I want to jam their heads into my mini-stove and set the digital temperature to 1000 degrees. I hate that movie with a passion. And it almost made me hate Will Ferrel forever.
But Will Ferrel is an interesting guy. He’s funny. And while each SNL member has an expiration date on their shtick, Ferrel’s has legs. He possesses that rare quality of being funny even when he’s doing nothing. He’s got a shot at becoming the most successful SNL alum of all time. Sure, he ‘s got Sandler, Myers, Murphy, and Martin ahead of him but he’s closing in.
I bring up Anchorman because in Land of The Lost, Ferrel seems to be channeling that same grating character. He plays a controversial yet cocky scientist looking for fossil fuels in alternate dimensions. In the opening scene, Anderson Cooper has invited four scientists to discuss what will happen when the world runs out of oil. Ferrel gives his opinions on quantum paleantology to the amusement of the other scientists, and within five minutes he’s on the floor beating the shit out of Stephen Hawking. Okay, points for that one. That’s funny.
But sadly, this is one of those SNL inspired scripts where the funniest scene comes in the first ten pages, and everything after that is varying degrees of awful (and I mean really really awful). It’s sad, really, that studios think they can throw any hot comedian into a funny concept and let him goof off for 2 hours and the audience will consider it “entertainment.” But that’s what we get with Land Of The Lost.
I’ll try to explain the plot but it’s so thin, I don’t even know if it could be considered a plot under the traditional definition of the term. Flash-forward 5 years and Ferrel is a has-been scientist marred by that CNN interview. He works at the La Brea Tar Pits, giving tours to school children. Luckily a new employee, Holly (I just imagined her as what’s her name from Married With Children) is a fan of Ferrel’s old work, and says she knows a place out in the desert that contains high “tachyon” readings (the essence of his research).
So they head on out there, meet Will, a paintball freak, and together accidentally jump into an alternate universe. And when I say accidental, I mean like, they stumble into a cave and “Hey! We’re in another universe! Cool!” Any time a manager or producer tells you the inciting incident of your time travel story has to be believable, just point to this script and say “No it doesn’t.” I know this is a comedy, but take more than 5 minutes to think of a way to make the “time jump”. Jeez.
So now Will, Holly, and Ferrel run around, randomly searching for a way to get home. Along the way they encounter lizard people, dinosaurs, and ice cream trucks. There is no point to this story. Ferrel, who’s spent his entire life trying to find these tachyons because of their time-traveling potential, finally finds them, gets transferred “back in time”, and spends the entire movie trying to get back to the “present”, away from the very thing he was looking for. Some people might call this ironic. I call it stupid and boring.
I’m sure everyone thought using an alternate universe gave them an edge over the traditional time-traveling story. Allowing them to use things like lizard people and ice cream trucks and whatever the hell else popped into their head. But with no boundaries, where do your characters go? Imagine playing football without yard markers. Heck, imagine playing football without end zones. Or any lines period. Where do you throw? What do you do? There needs to be something to ground the story. If the audience can expect literally anything to happen, there’s no danger. Nobody can die. Nothing’s a threat. It’s all just nonsense. Why not have everybody turn into bubble gum, blow bubbles of themselves, and fly off to Candyland where they’ll be safe? I never once sensed that the characters were in trouble here and that’s the single essential element to making a movie like this work.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that Will Ferrel running from a T-Rex is funny. But you have to understand, how long is that scene? Two minutes? Three? And after that, what’s left? Why do we care? What’s pushing the story forward? What are these characters’ problems? What are their goals? The filmmakers don’t care about the answers to these questions and so neither do we. It’s why ultimately this movie is as lost as its title.
I’ll finish this by saying even the big budget films HAVE TO HAVE A STORY. You can’t neglect it. It’s the heart of your film. I find it ironic that producers and studios and execs hold spec scripts to such high standards while holding their own projects to an “anything goes” mentality.
What I learned from Land Of The Lost: Nothing.