Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Land of the Lost (2009)

Directed by Brad Silberling. Even before HBO's "Mr. Show" made the definitive point with "Coupon: the Movie" it was well known that Hollywood had turned to stupid places for its ideas. For the most part, these movies based on old TV series have been terrible. Playing it straight, as in "Miami Vice" (2006), "The Avengers" (1998) or even when doing a comedy like "The Flintstones" (1994) is just stupid. What has worked is transforming drama/adventure to comedy, like in "Starsky and Hutch" (2004), updating the time period in which it takes place as in "Get Smart" (2008), or taking an ironic turn on the premise, as in "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995).

"Land of the Lost" got shit on before it was even released and people were right to be skeptical. Hollywood has made too many shitty movies based on crappy licensed properties, has run out of real ideas, and the original "Land of the Lost" TV show sucked dead ass. The stories were boring and the special effects made the 1933 "Kong" movie look like "Jurassic Park." But trashing the idea is like picking on that obnoxious little nerd in junior high. Yeah, he's probably asking for it, but isn't that a little too easy? Why be a bully? And one day that little shit just might cure cancer.

The only clear strategy to do anything with something as awful as "Land of the Lost" was to hit it with everything: transform the adventure to comedy, update the time in which it takes place, and take an ironic turn on the premise. Will Ferrell goes back in time, dinosaurs, running, yelling, blah blah blah. Also, in accordance with the new Hollywood Code #76354782, ubiquitous character actor Danny McBride is here as well.

Right around when the cast starts singing a song from "A Chorus Line" to a nest of baby pterodactyls and an apeman joins in -- who to that point has only grunted -- should one realize that this movie is a ridiculous farce and thus either succeeds or is pretty much immune to anyone's snobbery.

Ferrell's Will Marshall character begins arrogant, a physicist who understands time travel but with no respect for life, but redeems himself by the end. McBride's character begins the story wanting only to open a gaudy casino but readjusts his priorities by the end of the story. The time travel experience does not seem to make much difference to Anna Friel, who plays fellow scientist Holly Cantrell, but really only because she is a woman and Hollywood doesn't know what the hell to do with female characters.

It's all pretty goddamn funny, so to the whiners what expected something else -- are you out of your minds? Just what did you expect, a National Geographic special? It's Will Ferrell in the "Land of the Lost." If you don't expect him at some point to get crapped out of a dinosaur's butt, you're just not focused. Would you also be surprised to see James Bond fire a gun?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Drillbit Taylor (2008)

Directed by Steven Brill. This is not as bad a film as you may have been led to believe. By no means is it great, but it's got a laugh or two in it and if you start watching it at about 4PM on a Saturday you'll be done with it before 6PM and you'll have your whole evening in front of you. How's that for an endorsement?

As far as I can see, Steven Brill, who directed this, has a long record as an underachiever. He wrote those "Mighty Ducks" movies, which even I won't see, and he directed the Adam Sandler movie "Little Nicky" (2000), which I made it about 15 minutes into before I declared it an assault on my senses. There are very few movies I just give up on, but "Little Nicky" was just hideous to look at, listen to and humorless.

Another Sandler vehicle by Brill, "Mr. Deeds" (2002), is a bit better, as well as "Without a Paddle" (2004). I'd put "Drillbit Taylor" on that level. About where Little Debbie ranks as a packaged snack cake -- it's edible and even enjoyable under strict conditions but you better go into it knowing what you're getting yourself into.

The basic story is this; the fat kid, the smart kid and the funny kid are being bullied so they hire a bodyguard, everybody learns a little bit about themselves, and good GOD, Danny McBride is in this movie too! It seems like he's in every damn movie made.

There are huge holes in the plot, tons of stuff here would not happen the way it shakes out, and the movie would be far more interesting if the bullies had a little more depth. This is basically a script that needs a few more drafts. There's no second act, there are a bunch of scenes that could get cut, and the dialog needs some serious funnying up. Owen Wilson rescues his scenes with personality and delivery. Drink during it.