LAND OF THE LOST
starring Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride, Jorma Taccone
screenplay by Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas, based on the television series by Sid & Marty Krofft
directed by Brad Silberling
starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Jeffrey Tambor
screenplay by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
directed by Todd Phillips
by Ian Pugh I'd estimate there are around a hundred reasons why Brad Silberling's big-screen adaptation of Sid & Marty Krofft's "Land of the Lost" is awful, but none of them are more infuriating than the fact that it panders to its core hipster audience by being a great big nostalgic turd with an ironic bow on top. Have you watched the series recently and cracked self-satisfied jokes about how drugs were its primary influence? If so, then this film is for you. Do you like movies that try as hard as possible to resemble shitty episodic television from yesteryear? Then you've probably seen Land of the Lost twice already and rationalized it as something that won't win awards but at least manages to pass the time. That's certainly the mentality driving this unfortunate theme-park ride: the film would prefer that you look to the old series' theme song to fill in the necessary plot details, jamming the lyrics of same into its dialogue with a heavy-handed wink. Rick (Will Ferrell), Will (Danny McBride), and Holly (Anna Friel) are on "a routine expedition," and despite much ensuing sound and fury, that's all you need to know. But hey, dude, do you remember the Sleestaks? 'Cause this film totally remembers them, too--and while they've been injected with some CGI gloss, the costumes are just crappy enough to keep your childhood memories intact! It's worth noting that this is the second film in as many weeks to use an old-school Universal logo in its opening credits--but unlike Drag Me to Hell, Land of the Lost has nothing to distinguish it from what came before, no special insight into why the TV show that inspired it is a cultural touchstone. Frankly, it's impossible to see how any of it could be considered an improvement on renting the original series and jerking off.
Another male fantasy from the Todd Phillips stable about arrested thirty-somethings that basically boils down to "bros before hos," The Hangover is similarly beset by an eye-rolling familiarity. The catch is that the film establishes this band of thirty-somethings as so damaged and ignorant that it's impossible to take them at face value. Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married, and it's up to his three buddies--Alan (Zach Galifianakis), an incoherent burnout who, it's hinted, might be a sex offender/pedophile; Stu (Ed Helms), a pussywhipped dentist; and Phil (Bradley Cooper), a homophobic schoolteacher who steals from his students to finance the trip--to throw him a great bachelor party in Vegas. The morning after their wild night, their hotel room is in shambles, there's a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, and Doug is missing. As they attempt to piece together the events of the previous night, The Hangover appears to have something on its mind regarding the dangers of clinging to the wilful irresponsibility of youth, culminating in a wonderful scene featuring a pair of police officers (Rob Riggle and Cleo King) whooping with frat-boy excitement as they prompt grade-schoolers to tase our hapless heroes.
It's eventually revealed that our foursome was accidentally slipped some roofies before cavorting around Sin City--and, unfortunately, what should be the natural coup de grâce to this scenario only manages to massage School for Scoundrels' fear of rape by the evil Other. Killjoy women (like Stu's abusive girlfriend (Rachael Harris), whose parting words in the film are "suck my dick"), scary black dudes (like Mike Tyson, in what amounts to a retrospectively inappropriate cameo), and gays (like an effeminate Chinese gangster (Ken Jeong)) all threaten to fuck our boys one way or another, and it's through their interference that these man-children are inexplicably absolved of their sins. (Considering how the film presents Phil as a man who recoils at even the slightest suggestion of homosexuality, it's disappointing that The Hangover would go out of its way to validate his insecurities.) For the most part, it's an attempt at political incorrectness made disingenuous by loudly calling attention to itself. Still, the movie clicks whenever it directs that attention towards Galifianakis, who understands the earnest required for un-P.C. humour to work. (An abstract joke about the Holocaust is naturally in poor taste, but his oblivious delivery makes it killer.) Galifianakis is ultimately The Hangover's buoy in that regard, his outrageous non-sequiturs spoken without the instant expectation for laughs we've come to recognize from guys like Ferrell. He can't quite save the movie from itself, but here's hoping we see more of him soon--and here's hoping that Hollywood doesn't sink its talons in him too deeply. Originally published: June 5, 2009.