Land of the Lost -- Film Review

Lame sketch comedy, an uninspired performance from Will Ferrell and an overall failure of the imagination turn Brad Silberling�s �Land of the Lost� into a lethargic meander through a wilderness of misfiring gags. Fond memories of �Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,� �Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy� and �Semi-Pro� ensure that the Ferrell brand will draw a sizable young crowd during opening weekend, but boxoffice will trend downward after that. The Universal release should, however, stick around multiplexes until Jack Black�s �Year One� gives it a boot in two weeks.

The film derives from a (in some quarters) fondly remembered Saturday-morning children�s TV series wherein a family finds itself trapped in a parallel universe that mixes up dinosaurs, strange creatures and remnants of contemporary society. Reimagined for the big screen with much grander sets, the new �Land of the Lost� sends a crackpot scientist (Ferrell), a hero-worshipping science dropout (Anna Friel) and a desert redneck (Danny McBride) through a time portal into a world that features �Lawrence of Arabia� sand dunes, �One Million Years B.C.� caves and jungles as well as �Star Trek� aliens.

Ever the man-child, Ferrell takes charge of the wanderers only to lead them into one narrow � though predictable � escape from disaster after another. The trio hooks up with a primate named Chaka, which is Jorma Taccone of �Saturday Night Live� in a monkey costume that looks like a reject from �Planet of the Apes.� His simian language, though, is completely understood and translated by Friel.

Given that anything is possible � a T. Rex can trample a Hummer limousine without anyone saying, �Hey, wait a minute!� � it�s alarming to witness such uninspired gags. Written by Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas, the movie soon devolves into loosely linked sketches of a repetitive nature that sees Ferrell blunder into absurd situations for which his �science� � such as his notion that dousing himself with dinosaur urine will make him �invisible� to predators � proves hopelessly inadequate. Nevertheless, Friel�s confidence in his knowledge and McBride and their pet monkey�s antics help Ferrell overcome all obstacles.

The closest thing to a laugh-getter is the mad scientist�s backpack-cum-time machine � constructed of old computer parts � that continually remembers the opening song to �A Chorus Line.� Yet even this funny notion can be considered a lift from �WALL-E,� where a robot has an old VHS tape that endlessly plays songs from �Hello, Dolly!�

Bo Welch�s enormous sets give Dion Beebe�s camera plenty to look at, but they�re mere backgrounds. They never feel inhabited. Plus the CGI critters and humans in reptile costumes that romp around these sets are less threatening to our heroes than creatures on an amusement park ride.

So instead of gags, the film gives us gimmicks. Instead of comedy, we get concepts in a script that plays like a first draft rushed into production where nothing is really developed and no plot line exists on which to hang the various comic conceits.

Opens: June 5 (Universal Pictures)