Feb 18 2009 3:54pm

Land of the Lost: Hollywood Takes on the Craft of the Kroffts

While the big-screen adaptation of Land of the Lost isn’t set to be released until June 5th, the hype has already begun with the first commercial, which debuted during the Superbowl, and now an extended version of the trailer making the rounds on the internet. I’m going to withhold judgment based on these first glimpses of the film—since they're basically just Will Ferrell pulling his usual goofy, likeable shtick—but after all the rumored legal wrangling and script revisions the movie reportedly generated along the way, it should be interesting to see whether they’ve managed to pulled off a decent flick, much less a successful summer blockbuster.

I’m actually far more excited to see whether the movie kicks off a resurgence of interest in the show’s original creators, Sid and Marty Krofft: Evil Geniuses of children’s television programming. The prolific Krofft brothers basically ruled TV with an iron fist and an army of psychedelic puppet hordes throughout the strange, murky period known as The Seventies, and Land of the Lost, which ran from 1974 to 1976, probably represents the most straightforward and most serious embodiment of their well-worn basic formula. In most Krofft shows, the main character falls or is transported into some wacky alternative universe, populated by the aforementioned puppet-folk and the occasional aging vaudevillian or Broadway performer attempting to ham it up as much as humanly possible. Sid and Marty Krofft cannot even envision a world without trans-dimensional portals and “time doorways” laying about in strange and inconvenient places, with varying degrees of hilarity resulting...

I'll be writing more about the Expanded Krofftiverse at a later date,  but first things first: the original Land of the Lost showcased the adventures of father Rick Marshall and his two kids, Will and Holly, after a traumatic rafting expedition sends them into a bizarre world forgotten by time and filled with strange, hostile creatures. It’s basically just like Deliverance, but with Sleestaks and dinosaurs.

Okay, maybe not, but like all great Krofft shows, it has a bubbly, ridiculous theme song which explains the basic premise of the series before every single episode, suggesting that Sid and Marty believed their audience to be composed entirely of drooling, zombified morons with zero attention span. You have to love it, though:

(As a sidenote, I’m thinking that the hot banjo action behind those amazing lyrics lends a little credence to my newly discovered Deliverance/Land of the Lost anti-rafting conspiracy theory. I notice that a certain Mr. Ned Beatty never made a guest appearance on LotL...coincidence??? I think not.)

At any rate, the film version has clearly tweaked the relationships between the main characters, since Ferrell’s Rick Marshall is now accompanied by Pushing Daisies’ Anna Friel and comedian Danny McBride in place of the spunky teenagers of yore. On the other hand, the villainous Sleestaks are looking pretty Sleestak-y, and little Cha-Ka seems to be keeping it real on the Pakuni be honest, though, I couldn’t care less about most of the details, as long as the movie manages to translate some of the campy, over-the-top feel of the original without slipping into weak parody.

Moreover, for all that campiness, the original LotL was an extremely ambitious production, attempting to create a highly-detailed and realistic fantasy world on a limited production budget. Venerable Science Fiction writers like Larry Niven, Ben Bova, and Theodore Sturgeon even contributed scripts to the series, helping to craft a complex internal mythology rarely seen even today in the realm of children’s programming. All joking aside, the movie has a lot of material to work with thanks to the patented Krofft craziness—let’s hope they came up with something better than two hours of Will Ferrell’s frenzied mugging in front of a CGI dinosaur.

Or at least throw in some banjo music and a sweet Ned Beatty cameo...for the ladies.

Torie Atkinson
1. Torie
I'm not familiar with the original 70s version, but I was totally in love with the early 90s version as a kid. I can still remember the theme song and the entire title sequence, shot for shot.

I had actually forgotten about its existence until about a year ago when I was playing WoW. There is a dinosaur/jungle area where there are two quest givers, Williden Marshal and Hol'anyee Marshal. You have to collect red, green, blue, and yellow power crystals, and of course fight dinosaurs and other monsters. All the memories came flooding back.

This past weekend I caught the full trailer for the new movie before Coraline, and I'm sort of horrified. It looks more like they've made it a Will Ferrell Movie (ugh). Because we really need more of those.
Bridget McGovern
2. BMcGovern
@ Torie

Oh, I totally missed the 90s version, somehow! I suspect it was because I spent the 90s discovering all the bad 60s and 70s TV I'd missed while not being born, and all :) I do things all out of order, really...perhaps I should check it out now. Maybe if the movie looks truly wretched closer to the release date, we should just host a Time-Travelling Tribute to the early versions of the show.

And we can work on my script for a Deliverance remake starring Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Carlos Mencia and Larry the Cable Guy while we're at it. You know Burt Reynolds will produce if we ask nicely...
Jason Ramboz
3. jramboz
So you're saying that the subset of us who have yet to see the trailer and who absolutely positively can't STAND Will Ferrell and find him in no wise entertaining should probably sit this one out for now?

(Yes, sometime I'll have to tell you how I really feel about Will Ferrell.)
Reason Reanimator
4. Reason Reanimator
As a kid back then, the original was one of my favorite shows--I didn't know a silver-screen version was in the works! Thanks for posting about it.

IMOFWIW, movie trailers rarely represent what the actual movies are. And too many trailers reveal too much, like the whole movie condensed-style flashes before the trailer viewer's eyes. Then what's the point in watching the film if practically everything's already been revealed?

I don't want much spoiling before I enter a fictional world, even one I've already experienced in another version; I prefer first-time experiencing inside the actual narrative. So I won't click the link but will read what some less-spoiling viewer reviews say before deciding whether to see the film.

I'm also hoping the new Star Trek movie doesn't wind up being like the trailer seems.
Mitchell Downs
5. Beamish
I LOVED the original Krofft version as a kid. I remember it as both a Saturday morning show and a daily afternoon show.

There really were deeper mysteries to the show: the degeneration of the Sleestaks from an advanced race into savagery (almost a Lovecraftian element there); a continuing story about Civil War era travelers who were there before the Marshalls and may have found a way home; the portals between time and dimensions.

This movie could have been excellent - instead it looks to be another crappy Will Ferrell vehicle. Why do I let life disappoint me so?
Bridget McGovern
6. BMcGovern
@ jramboz #3

Fair enough :) I don't hate Will Ferrell, but I certainly respect the act of hating movies solely based on the casting of people I don't like (which is why I have never seen any of the Spiderman films--I simply don't do the Dunst).

That's part of my problem with this trailer: it makes it look like a Ferrell vehicle geared toward people who have never even heard of the original show; I guess that's the only way it'll make money, but it doesn't necessarily make it a good idea...
Bridget McGovern
7. BMcGovern
@ Reason Reanimator #4

I agree with you about the trailer--there is NOTHING WORSE than realizing that you've already seen everything worth seeing before you decided to go to the theater. As you say, I'll have to wait for some non-spoiler-filled reviews before I decide to actually shell out some cash to see this thing...

@ Beamish #5

Hope prevails--maybe it'll surprise us! But, your rather eloquent summary of what *should* have provided some focus to the film makes me a little sad. This really should have been a SciFi film, with comedic elements...let's hope it comes out a little better than, say, the Ferrell/Kidman remake of Bewitched did.
Reason Reanimator
8. Reason Reanimator
Yep, BMcGOVERN! And, forgive me, I've gotta clarify my first post. In my second paragraph I should have put plot-wise in my second or third sentence because the first two seem to contradict each other.

Movies are (or at least should be) more than their plots--like with acting, tone, mood, character, etc. Yet I think many trailers reveal nearly all of the plot and maybe a little mood--this is bad because most movies seem plot-driven. So if almost the whole plot's shown in the trailer, like I said, what's the point in film viewing?

It's funny I'm not the only one thinking this; people usually get all excited at my mentioning it. My local video-store owner--same thing. He nodded vigorously, and went off on this and even more trailer complaints.

Aside from economic hardship and what I think is a marked decrease in movie-making quality in recent times, could too-revealing trailers be another thing keeping more viewers home? People like some mystery. But that's been blown with those trailers.

Then there are the fast-flashy gibberish looking trailers. WOW, do they look pretty with all those revved-up shots. But THAT'S IT. Just a bunch of schizophrenic big-budget flashing shots--another very common trailer. If many are like these two, again, why bother? They seem bad advertisements, which makes me feel BAD MOVIE, even while I know the two may be vastly different.

Still, I'm human. And if the creators couldn't make a good trailer, I'm a bit suspicious of the longer work being any good....

Sometimes you can't easily avoid trailers because they're in the beginnings of theater movies. I didn't enjoy the new Star Trek trailer. I've never been really disappointed in a ST movie as I love ST. But, to me, this trailer didn't seem faithful to ST; it seemed jacked-up macho and with that schizophrenic feel.

BUT, I'll probably make an exception and see the movie anyway. Gotta have my Star Trek fix!

(Sorry for the superlong post.)
Reason Reanimator
9. Kiley
I totally watched LotL in the 90's! I'm assuming it wasn't the same version as the 70's just rerun 20 yeras later, right? I don't remember a ton about it because I was really little, but I remember that I loved it.

Yeah - this show could have been made into a Scifi/Fantasy movie with comedic elements. I don't generally do Ferrell movies except Elf, and he was doing that for kids and not really being himself. Argh...why can't he just stay in his own genre of stupid perverted humor and leave awesome time-travel flicks alone, eh?
Bridget McGovern
10. BMcGovern
@ Reason Reanimator #8

Excellent points (though admittedly you're preaching to the choir here)--and I do think Hollywood needs to recognize that movie-going audiences are a little smarter than they think we are. In addition to all the things you've mentioned, one of my biggest pet peeves is schizophrenic marketing strategies, in which the studio tries to sell the same movie in multiple ways. For example, you'll see one preview edited to seem all wacky and light and comedic, and then later you'll see another which highlights the darker dramatic aspects of a given movie.

I vaguely recall them doing this with the last Noah Baumbach film, Margot at the Wedding...they tried two different approaches, neither of which gave the audience a clear idea of the mood of the film. That tactic completely alienates me, as a potential viewer, and I feel like it must do the same for other people. If Hollywood believes that it's turning out a quality product, it shouldn't have to *trick* people into seeing films through misleading trailers and advertising.

Okay, I'm done ranting for now, I promise :)
Bridget McGovern
11. BMcGovern
@ Kiley #9

Between you and Torie, I'm really thinking I might need to check out the 90s version...I really don't know how I completely missed it growing up. Was it on the same time as The Cosby Show or something? What the hell was I even watching in the early Nineties?

I'm with you on the Ferrell, although as Torie mentioned to me in passing yesterday, he's actually not a bad actor when it comes to smaller character roles (as in Stranger Than Fiction). But yeah: LotL deserves better than to just be "Anchorman II: But With Dino-Science!"
Jason Ramboz
12. jramboz
There's also a flipside to the trailer issue, which is that they can completely misrepresent a movie as well.

For example, take the movie Traitor. The previews pitched it as a cool FBI action/thriller. Instead, those of us who saw it were forced to sit through two hours of "Y'know, most Muslims are shiny happy peaceful people, but radical Islam is teh evil and ZOMG YOAR FRIEND/NEIGHBOR/HUSBAND CUD BE ONE RIGHT NAO!! *beat audience over head with heavy hands. repeat.*"

I remember walking out of the theater feeling like I'd been the victim of a bait-and-switch scheme. My girlfriend, who deals with some of these (misrepresented) issues at her job and who only saw the movie on my recommendation that it sounded like something she'd like, was also pretty peeved with me. Thanks, trailer. Thanks so much.

Anyway, just thought I'd share.

Oh, and I have a strange, sinking feeling that Kevin Smith may be responsible for Will Ferrell landing the LotL part.

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