Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Review: Land of the Lost (zero stars)

Directed by Brad Silberling
Cast: Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel, John Boylan, Jorma Taccone, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Matt Lauer
Voice Cast: Leonard Nimoy
2009--101 minutes

I'm not quite sure how to talk about "Land of the Lost" in a civilized way, without rambling on in an aimless review filled to the brim with curse words in my head that most people don't even know exist. Since this blog is meant to be family-friendly for those who desperately want to read civilized reviews, I will try my best, but note that this is incredibly edited from what is going through my head right now. Truth is, I want very much for the makers of "Land of the Lost" to personally refund my ticket. Considering that the ticket was free, I think my point has been made. And I'm pretty sure that I littered that ticket onto the floor of the men's bathroom in Borders. "Land of the Lost" made me nearly fuming-mad as many times as, say, "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale" last year, "Bratz" and "Dragon Wars" the year before, and "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" the year before that, except that this may be the most disappointing of the lot.

Considering that director Brad Silberling has made an affecting human drama ("Moonlight Mile") and two subversively dark family films ("Casper" and "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events"), he is one of my favorite modern directors. But "Land of the Lost" is an unspeakable mistake on his part. The movie has to do with Dr. Rick Marshall, a scientist apparently inept in everything that has the word "social" in front of it, and as shown in the embarrassing, cringe-inducing opening interview with an obviously bored Matt Lauer, he has written a book about how time warps could, in theory, work. Three years later, no one believes him and he is stranded to teaching some science class to creepy children with too much knowledge about human female anatomy. Then he...

Oh, I give up. Trying to understand "Land of the Lost" is like trying to teach a 2-year-old what the word "physics" means. You're gonna get a blank stare and possibly kill some of the child's brain cells in the process. Really, that's how the movie is as an entity itself. With this movie, nothing resonates, nothing satiates (not even the most undiscriminating of viewers will be able to enjoy themselves), and nothing amuses. Not even Danny McBride comes out unscathed. Normally McBride's line delivery is spot-on (as in "Pineapple Express" and "Tropic Thunder"), but considering his normal R-rated pedigree, I'd say his thankless role as Will Stanton is a huge step down.

To cover the movie's failed aesthetics would take a college thesis paper, not a paragraph, but I'll again try my best. The cinematography by the normally reliable Dion Beebe (he shot 2004's best film, "Collateral") is abnormally hideous, shrouding everything in ugly yellows and oranges. Then again, no color would've worked, so maybe Beebe should be cut some slack. The musical score by Michael Giacchino is awful, pretty much a slap in the face after his amazing work on "Star Trek." Apparently Giacchino can be a gutless hack whenever the project is this bad. The visual effects are supposed to be cheesy, but an effort is actually made to make them believable sometimes, which defeats the purpose. Thus, they just become as awful and annoying as the rest of the picture. In this way, last summer's underrated "Journey to the Center of the Earth" was much more impressive, never losing sight of the fact that it was dumb. At least it didn't misplace its humor, like "Land of the Lost" does.

The acting is hopeless. I already mentioned McBride's lack of material to deliver (though he's not bad in the role, per se). Will Ferrell is awful as Rick Marshall, in a way he's never been. None of the characters has anything to work with, as far as characteristics or even caricatures, but Ferrell especially embarrasses himself in scenes like one in which he drinks a bottle of dinosaur pee while splashing it on himself. The scene has no payoff (unlike an unbearably hilarious and quite similar scene in last year's "Superhero Movie" that culminates in urine being sprayed sprinkler-style onto a bedroom floor), thus no attempt is made to give us a reason to laugh. Anything can be funny in the right context, but no context exists under Silberling's tasteless and indistinctive direction.

Special mention must go to Jorma Taccone for doing the impossible: he makes the ape-man Cha-Ka seem endearing and sweet at the audience's first sight and then creates one of the most despicable, overused, and repugnant movie characters of the last twenty years, so obnoxious that he could take the previous crown held by Jar-Jar Binks in the annals of Hated Movie Characters. Cha-Ka is nothing more than a gimmick--a bad one--and every time he's on screen I cringed, especially with his incessant feeling-up of Anna Friel's breasts. The only person that doesn't make you wanna tear out your eyeballs is Friel, ironically, though she's not very good, either. Even Leonard Nimoy turns up in a voice cameo, but it's much ado about nothing.

Something like "Land of the Lost" comes about rarely. It is one of those films that made me very nearly lose faith in the cinema. All I could do during film were three things: 1) count the cobwebs forming on the screen; 2) wonder what sort of criminal acts Brad Silberling & Co. should be guilty of; and 3) think happier thoughts, like the sweet respite of being trampled by spiky-shoed horses followed by wild boars. By the end, I couldn't wait to leave the theater and breathe some fresh air. The problem is, zero star films are ones that I don't soon forget. The thought of playing scenes from "Land of the Lost" in my head is terrifying to consider. This is the worst film of the year. Not "the year so far," you'll notice. I don't think it'll get any worse than this.

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