Land of the Lost
I was a very young boy when NBC premiered its campy series about a park ranger and his two kids being transported by raft to a prehistoric world populated by creepy lizard men, a slightly less creepy caveboy, crystal pylons and the ever-present threat of a tyrannosaur's snapping jaws jutting into the makeshift cave they called home. It was a bit scary, but, man, I loved it. Especially the last line of the catchy, banjo-picked theme song: "To the la-aaa-aaaannd ... of the lo-ah-ost."
Thirty-three years after the last big-eyed Sleestak shuffled into the jungle, the franchise is back. Marshall. Holly. Will. Chaka. The Sleestak lizard men and the dinosaurs. They're all back.
But this reloaded version isn't quite how I remember it.
This time, Rick Marshall is a paleontologist with a crazy theory about time travel. After spending millions of taxpayers' dollars on his so-called "tachyon amplifier," Marshall's failure to open a portal in the space-time continuum earns him nothing but ridicule—especially from skeptical Today show host Matt Lauer.
One person, however, believes in Marshall's theory: British scientist Holly Cantrell. Holly convinces Marshall to complete his work on the time-travel device, and the pair drives into the desert to test it, searching for the strongest tachyon signal.
They locate said signal near a dilapidated amusement park ride. Proprietor Will Stanton offers to guide them through Devil's Canyon Mystery Cave on—what else?—a raft. And about as quickly as you can say tachyon amplifier, they get catapulted down a cascading cataract into a world where time and space—and quite a few other nasty things—collide.
The trio's ensuing misadventures introduce them to exiled caveboy Chaka, a meanspirited dino they dub Grumpy and a pair of Sleestak lizard men who each claim the other plans to use the (now lost) time-bending contraption to rule the universe.
Only by relocating the tachyon amplifier can Marshall, Will and Holly put an end to the nefarious plot—and get home. If, that is, they can keep from being eaten by Grumpy.
Holly proves to be quite an encouragement for Marshall. Marshall, Will and Holly keep Chaka from being executed. Holly, in particular, treats Chaka compassionately. Marshall acts as if Chaka is his slave for most of the movie, but eventually confesses, "I've treated you like a toilet."
[Spoiler Warning] Will feels more at home in the prehistoric world than he does in ours, and he volunteers to stay behind so that Marshall and Holly can escape.
Marshall says his love for Chaka is "a billion times greater than the love that Jesus Christ had for mankind on the cross." Will tells several of Chaka's people, the Pakuni, to "prepare to bow down and worship" him.
Here's a bunch of stuff that wasn't on TV three decades ago: As Holly talks to Chaka, he suggestively paws at her breasts. Will then mimics Chaka's behavior. Chaka's hand is again on her (covered) breast while the group sleeps. When Marshall, Will and Chaka awake one morning, they're positioned in an arrangement that suggests a sexual threesome.
Chaka takes Will to his village where the females are all human looking and are clothed only in loincloths. Five or six women attend to Will, their hair minimally covering their chests and their loincloths barely obscuring their backsides.
Marshall, Will and Chaka go for a dip in a motel swimming pool that's been sucked into the prehistoric world. (The camera focuses on Marshall in his wet underclothes.) In another scene, Holly tears off the legs of her pants, turning them into short shorts. She also wears a cleavage-enhancing tank top that the camera ogles several times, as do Marshall, Will and Chaka. Marshall brags to Matt Lauer about Holly being his lover.
Talk—and a few visuals—revolve around sexual favors, sexual self-gratification, a coffee cup with breasts, a firework Will calls a "Mexican vasectomy," "gay" music and Cialis. Suggestive comments are made at Holly's expense. As Marshall and Will watch, two Sleestaks have sex (offscreen), an event Will describes in crude anatomical terms.
The most intense violence in Land of the Lost almost always maintains a comedic feel. Still, several shots of Grumpy pursuing the film's heroes involve ferocious snapping and biting. A character gets swallowed whole, and Grumpy apparently eats an unfortunate astronaut as well. A small army of Sleestaks are no match for the marauding dinosaur either. He hurls some through the air and sweeps others aside with his tail.
Similarly, a score of small dinosaurs, larger Velociraptors, Grumpy and an angry Allosaurus make quick work of an unfortunate ice cream delivery man when his truck gets yanked through the tachyon portal. Marshall, Will and Holly launch a bottle of liquid nitrogen down a dinosaur's throat. It freezes, then explodes, blowing chunks of red dino meat everywhere. This scene, especially, parallels what moviegoers saw in the Jurassic Park franchise.
Other violence includes Marshall's hand-to-hand melee with a Sleestak leader, Will kicking a Sleestak in the crotch, Holly being suspended in a cage above a pool of lava, and several Sleestaks plunging into that lava and getting vaporized.
Marshall attacks Matt Lauer, but gets repelled by a fire extinguisher. We see the rotted corpses of two people. A huge crab explodes. A giant insect sucks a massive amount of blood from Marshall before exploding when he lays down on it. (Marshall has a huge blood blister on his back afterward.)
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word, about 10 s-words, 30-plus misuses of God's name (including two pairings with "d--n") and two misuses of Jesus' name. Characters say "h---," "d--n," "p---," "b--ch," "b--tard" and "a--" about 40 times (combined). We hear such vulgar or sexually suggestive phrases as "suck it" and "that blows." Crude slang is attached to male and female anatomy.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Marshall, Will and Chaka partake of a hallucinogenic plant and get very stoned. We see a man drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. Marshall tries to smoke a pipe, twice, on two different airings of the Today show.
Other Negative Elements
Marshall believes saturating himself with dinosaur urine will keep other predators from locating him. He pours several gallons of the stuff he's collected—a disgusting story in its own right—over his head and face. He drinks some as well. We hear that a character eaten by a T. rex survived after being excreted. Holly extracts a dino egg from a pile of dino dung.
Marshall says that if the group can't find enough to eat, they can "slow roast" Chaka. Will uses Chaka as a battering ram, with one hand embedded in Chaka's furry backside. We learn that Chaka was to be executed for "pooping in the village well."
Nostalgia is a powerful thing—even when it comes to a silly little live-action TV series from 1974-76 that only ran for 43 episodes. And you'd better believe that this film's creators are counting on older moviegoers seeing the ads and saying, "Aw, I remember Land of the Lost. I loved that show. Let's go see the movie! We'll take the kids!"
Anyone who acts on that impulse, however, will discover too late that this particular Land is waaayyyy more Lost than its campy '70s namesake.
Sadly, the show's original producers, Sid and Marty Krofft, don't seem much bothered by the sullying of their franchise with nearly bare breasts and backsides, repeated gropings of Holly's chest, visual allusions to homosexual sex, Sleestak sex, urine showers, drug abuse and 100 or so bad words.
In a recent Washington Post article, Sid Krofft commented, "Sid and Marty Krofft have always moved with the times, and when you go to see Land of the Lost the movie, you will see that we brought it up to the year 2009." Um, Sid, that's not necessarily something to be proud of. I'd much rather have seen the pair hang on to the ethos that guided them three decades ago, when Sid said that their shows were about "teaching children a lesson." That consideration apparently didn't figure much in their creative process this time around.
For his part, director Brad Silberling (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) believes the movie's violence is actually a bigger issue for younger viewers than its sexual content. When Movies Online writer Sheila Roberts asked him, "What age are you aiming for in an audience," the director replied, "Kids a whole lot younger than 10 to me would be kids that parents really think are not going to be scared. ... So I think it's probably up to the parents." Then he added, "It's funny, innuendo seems to fly over kids' heads."
Whether or not the movie's occasionally jump-inducing (but still mostly comedic) violence is a bigger issue than its frequent sexual allusions, Silberling's plan for his own family is telling: "My daughter's 8 and certainly [is] not going to come and see the movie."
Collider.com's Steve Weintraub echoed that sentiment. His observations sum up Land of the Lost's problematic content so well that I'll close with them: "I saw a screening and have to say ... it's a lot dirtier than I expected. In fact, I was quite surprised at how much they got away with for a PG-13 movie. If you thought this was going to be some safe family film, you're in for a surprise."
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Will Ferrell as Rick Marshall; Anna Friel as Holly Cantrell; Danny McBride as Will Stanton; Jorma Taccone as Chaka; John Boylan as Enik; Leonard Nimoy as The Zarn; Matt Lauer as Himself
Brad Silberling ( Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events)
June 5, 2009
October 13, 2009