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 front...to 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.