Two competing "comedies" rely on familiarity to bring in the audiences
Men will be boys – at least that’s what anyone giving even a cursory glance at Land of the Lost – would be likely to conclude.
What else to say about this big budget, limp comedic exercise in male adolescence based on a schlocky, not very good 70s children
program? Will Ferrell who has risen to big screen stardom fronting these increasingly skimpy comedies has his thinnest role yet as
Dr. Rick Marshall, the wacko scientist nerd who insists that his “tachyon amplifier” can transport folks through a “time vortex” once
again improbably ends up with a hot babe and a “so there” to the naysayers who doubted him (this time none other than Matt Lauer
gets the bird – something Tom Cruise will surely appreciate).
Audiences know what to expect from these movies before they plunk down their money and that’s a large part of their appeal (and
of Ferrell). There’s the usual “hilarious” gross out sight gags (dinosaur doo doo, snot, and intestines, crawly bugs, giant
mosquitoes, etc.), a smattering of “gay” humor involving Cher (this one a pretty good bit involving the synthesized voice used in the
“Believe” recording) and show tunes (a repeated motif in which Ferrell’s scientific device plays “I Hope I Get It” from “A Chorus Line”
each time it’s powered up), and of course, a long sequence in which the leading guys get high and are dared to French kiss one
another (the surprise here is that they don’t do it). We have a noxious sidekick (Danny McBride filling in for John C. Reilly who has
gone on to star in his own adult male adolescent parodies), the luscious, aforementioned babe with brains (Anna Friel this time out),
and the nerd’s sycophantic nerd (Jorma Taccone as the ape man Cha-Ka in a role that would have once gone to Steve Carell).
All of this is in keeping with the frat house mentality of these movies which have become so familiar that the laughs are just about
cued in advance. And yet, like the formulaic, crude comedies of old (and I’m thinking of the Three Stooges and Abbott & Costello),
there are still enough dumb dumb laughs to make a movie like Land of the Lost okay date fare. Ferrell does his job, McBride’s
arrogant schtick is still fresh enough to remain funny and Michael Giacchino’s score with its witty musical homages to Planet of the
Apes and Close Encounters adds some zest. But as always with a movie like this, it’s best to lower your expectations: it’s really thin
stuff. Strip away the big budget special effects, the flickering star wattage and replace the comedy with earnestness and you get
exactly what the original delivered: a hokey sci-fi kids show with cheesy effects and acting designed for 10 year-olds. Taken in those
terms, this Land of the Lost is about as nutritious as the sugar saturated breakfast cereals scarfed down by those unsuspecting little
10 year-olds in 1976.
Perhaps the freshest, most delightful thing about Land of the Lost is what I learned after seeing the movie: that Wesley Eure, who
played the son of the Will Ferrell character in the original series and set quite a few hearts aflame with his open shirt, tight pants and
gold chain necklace, is gay. Eure, who went on to host game shows and work on “Days of Our Lives,” recently came out and has
revealed something even more delicious: that the little gold disco chain was a present from his then lover.
“Men will be boys” could also work as the tagline for The Hangover, yet another frat comedy, this one without the big budget
special effects, in which a trio of buddies head to Las Vegas to host a bachelor party for their understandably nervous groom (the
likeable, angst driven Justin Bartha from the National Treasure pictures). The trio are led by a swaggering lout named Phil (the
appealing Bradley Cooper, being given a push toward headline status), the henpecked Stu (Ed Helms from “The Office”) and the tag-
along weirdo Alan (Zach Galifianakis).
The trio intend on giving their pal a night to remember but instead, the foursome engage in such a debauch that they wake with
amnesia, the groom missing, a tiger in the bathroom of the expensive suite they’ve taken, and other signs of a lot of heavy duty
partyin’. What ensues, as the trio reconstruct their actions of the night before is what seems to happen with these dude comedies: a
promising set up quickly dissolves into a typical frat comedy. Within 20 minutes of the film’s opening we get dick jokes, ass jokes,
masturbation jokes, “retard” jokes, jokes about the weird, large and lovely character’s “man purse,” hints that Alan, said bizarre nerd
who is also arrogant and stupid, just might also be a convicted child molester (now that’s funny!), and of course, the requisite semen
jokes (we have There’s Something About Mary to thank for lowering that particular bar).
But again, as in Land of the Lost, if one enters the theatre with the bar set very, very low The Hangover does have some winning
moments, its share of familiar laughs, a heartthrob in its leading man (though, oddly, Cooper turns out to be underused), a
charming bit by Helms where he sings a little ditty of his own making, Heather Graham as a clueless stripper with a heart, and a
weird, fey, just odd enough to be funny, Chinese tough guy. Best is the music supervisor’s good taste to use The Cramps version of
“Fever” on the soundtrack. Hearing the seductive and menacing Lux Interior warbling this classic in his own inimitable style (God rest
his black hearted, deep fried soul) provided a nice diversion from the endless plot machinations that were not nearly as funny as
they must have read on the page.
Ironically, the funniest thing in The Hangover happens during the end credit sequence where we finally see the Polaroids of the
bachelor party. Here at last are the genuine laughs the movie has promised – they’re better than the entire movie that preceded it
Men Will Be Boys:
Land of the Lost-The Hangover
Exclusive 6-5-09 KATM Column*
By Richard Knight, Jr.
*I wrote about upcoming summer movies of interest to GLBT audiences in my 6-3-09 Windy City Times column. You can read that
here but I thought I'd also weigh on these two "guy" comedies as well.
Knight at the Movies Archives