Stupid on an epic scale or epic on a stupid one, Land of the Lost is as close as Will Ferrell comes these days to a "kid-friendly" movie.
A mildly ribald farce built around the 1970s children's TV show about humans stuck in a parallel universe and the weird critters they find there, Land of the Lost has been re-engineered for the Ron Burgundy Fan Club. And from the looks of things, no expense was spared in hurling the world's most infamous (and infamously lumpy) underwear model into a Journey to the Center of the Earth comic adventure.
Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall, a crackpot scientist exiled to a minor museum after a meltdown during a Today show interview with Matt Lauer.
But shapely Brit grad student Holly (Anna Friel) hunts him down and convinces him that he's not mad, that there are parallel universes and she has the fossilized cigarette lighter to prove it. Holly and junk-food addict Rick take his "tachyon amplifier" to a cheesy cave tourist attraction run by Will (Danny McBride), where an ordinary raft ride turns into a trip to "a cosmic lost and found," where pterodactyls fly past Fotomats, Cessna planes lie entangled with Viking longships, and primitive apelike creatures whose language Holly speaks dodge dinosaurs and get buzzed on fruit juice.
Rick's theory — that you can "travel sideways in time" to a "land of the lost," where "past, present and future meet" — is proved true. If only the daft scientist can find a way to get back to our time, back on the Today show. Matt Lauer is in for it.
As with most of Ferrell's movies, the wackiness spins out of riffs in which the players (McBride is good at this) try to top one another with outrageous comments or exclamations: "Captain Kirk's nipples!" "Sweet Gregor Mendel!"
A friendly apeman (Jorma Taccone) cops a feel. Rick shoves his hand down his shorts, and Rick and Will react to a vibrating portal to other dimensions by using it to duet on Cher's synthesized hit Do You Believe in Life After Love?
Director Brad Silberling's best picture was Lemony Snicket, but he's content to keep the effects convincing and make sure Ferrell's reactions to a "grumpy" T. rex are in sync with them. Other than that, just let the stars do their faintly off-color romping and riffing through a chunk of the desert Southwest where they don't mind if you stick a movie set there and have to listen to a lot of Ferrell screaming.
Parents who fondly recall the '70s TV show might be a bit surprised at the tenor of this sometimes hilarious but stupid and slapdash star vehicle. But that's what the kids are laughing at these days — "that's gay" jokes, masturbation gags, pot references and dino doo-doo.
But even if nobody sells a dino-poo gag like Ferrell, that's nothing to take to the bank or the Today show, is it?