The cheesy special effects of the television series have been replaced with state-of-the-art post–Jurassic Park dinos, and Bo Welch's production design of this parallel universe where the past, present, and future collide may be the real star here. Certainly Welch has built a vast playground where Ferrell and buddies can throw bad joke after bad joke against the wall and see what sticks.
The basic premise finds Marshall; his redneck cohort, Will (Danny McBride); and his research assistant, Holly (Anna Friel), in a race against time and history to escape from this land and return home as heroes—or be stuck there forever. Finding themselves pursued constantly by a hypersensitive Tyrannosaurus rex and weird creatures known as Sleestaks, the threesome are in need of help and find it in the form of a human-faced primate named Chaka (Jorma Taccone), who joins them in their quest as he tries to get back to his own tribe. If it all sounds like kids' stuff, it is; but the filmmakers—director Brad Silberling and writers Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas—are smart enough to throw in a couple of F-bombs and some tasteless little nuggets such as having Ferrell's character drench himself in urine in order to get a PG-13 and attract the teen audience most likely to devour this Scooby-Doo wannabe.
The humor is all over the map but some of it works surprisingly well, especially a scene in which Ferrell sings the Land of the Lost theme as he is blissfully unaware of a large bug sticking his stinger into his neck—the side effects of which are hilarious. Another bit with Ferrell, McBride, and Taccone lost in a drug haze worthy of Woodstock is also a gem. And then there is the constant homage to A Chorus Line, as the audition anthem "God I Hope I Get It" is played over and over and finally pays off in a scene in which a large group of dino eggs are about to be hatched.
This is Ferrell's show and, despite the above highlights, it comes off like the kind of Saturday Night Live sketch they might slot in the last half-hour of the show. The whole thing is almost stolen by McBride, who is the perfect sidekick, and Taccone, an SNL writer getting his big acting break by being willing to emote in a monkey suit. Friel is lovely as the straight (wo)man of the group. But—and we never thought we'd be saying this—it's Lauer we will remember, thanks to two interview segments that are the most genuinely funny things in the entire film. If nothing else, the synergy between Universal and sister company NBC is worthy of an Oscar.
Written by: Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas.
Directed by: Brad Silberling.
Starring: Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone, Matt Lauer.