Warning! This site contains satire, cynical adult humor, celebrity gossip, and an occasional peanut by-product or two!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Land of the Lost

I think I lived in the Land of the Lost most of my life. There may not have been many dinosaurs along the way, but there have been more than enough predators. But enough about my years in Parochial School. Those priests have been wrung out tighter than Joan Rivers’ face. One cheesy but interesting spot in my spackled together existence was a long-ago job with a couple of low-rent producers back in the 1970s who made and sold children’s television series with the same budgets and aplomb as bad pornography of the day ~ only without the classy music accompaniment. The Krofft Brothers, Sid and Marty, were already famous by the time I went to work for them. Their Les Poupées de Paris, a marionette show featuring naughty and nude puppets was a huge hit in Vegas (ironically at another of my someday employers, the Flamingo Hotel), and on television they had scored with "The Bugaloos", "Lidsville" and "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" before I wondered along, so it’s not like I can claim I didn’t know the level of quality I was getting myself into when I signed onboard for what was a year in a loony-bin, where the inmates really did run the asylum and nobody ever seemed to know what was going on or who was in charge, but I pretty much lived all of my life that way anyhow.

I had been at DOOL, or "Days of our Lives" in laymen’s terms, for most of my college years and as rigid as that schedule demanded, life at the Krofft Factory was chaos barely under control, but it was fun nonetheless, though I was never sure how anything got on the air (which may explain that “home video” look). One of the performers I knew from DOOL became one of the stars of the Krofft’s latest venture, "Land of the Lost", about a father and his two kids, Will and Holly, who are transported into a prehistoric world full of dinosaurs and a primate culture called the Pakuni. Believe it or not, as tacky as this show looked on-screen, the Krofft Brothers wanted to make sure that the language the Pakuni spoke was linguistically logical and that when they, or most usually Cha-Ka, the main Pakuni character spoke, the words would be pronounced correctly. They even hired a linguist to create “Pakuni” speak, and eventually we had a list more than 200 words in their vocabulary, based on an African language spoken in Togo and Ghana called Kwa. So somebody had to listen to every single syllable the actors uttered to make sure they grunted out in their fictitious but similar words with just the exact “nasalization of vowel sounds” and other specific language rules. That somebody was me. Like the seven year old digging the pajamas out of the crack in his ass at 8:00 am was worrying. But I digress.

The point of this story, and somewhere along the way, I think it meandered into the
Land of the Lost
for a minute or two, is that Wesley Eure, who the Kroffts envisioned as their beak-out heart-throb star, did manage to make some of the teen magazines of the time like TigerBeat and 16, but because "Land of the Lost" was considered a “children’s show,” he didn’t attract the teenybopper crowd he or the Kroffts hoped he would. Cut to the ABC network and “The Partridge Family.” David Cassidy was filling magazines world-wide and selling millions of records (yes, those big black round things!) from his role as the oldest son on the family comedy, but he had become “difficult” and wanted out, so ABC was quietly looking to recast the role and had decided on Wesley, which could present him with the possibility of becoming as hot as Cassidy if he caught on with the mostly-teen girls who watched the show. Inexplicably, though, during the summer before the show was to go back into production, ABC decided to abruptly cancel the series and Wes’ chance at teen king status went up in smoke.

Don’t cry for Wes, Argentina! He went on to have a fascinating career as a writer of children’s books and videos and now lives in Palms Springs with his partner where they produce musicals, including the campy Bite Me (about vampires, Darlings) and Snapshots (with music by Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz). For reasons I’ll never understand, he chose the opening of the big screen version of Land of the Lost to come out of the closet. Seriously. Thirty-five years after the tv series premiered, Wesley, at 57, finally has decided to tell the world he is gay. When he reaches the age he might as well be living in the Land of the Lost as a gay man he decides to talk. Doesn’t he know that once you get past thirty in the gay world you cease to exist in the eyes of other gay men anyway? I’m sorry. I know it sounds harsh, but it is true.

Even in the Will Farrell remake, Wesley’s cameo was banished to the cutting room floor (well, actually it will be on the dvd release). Let’s face it, nobody has really cared if Wesley was gay except Wesley since the 1970s when he really did get canned from “Days of our Lives” because The Powers That Be were afraid if his preferences were to become public none of the soap audience would ever tune in again. God forbid he would kiss a girl and try to convince anyone he was a red-blooded heterosexual. That would require… well, acting.

And speaking of which, back to the movie… This new, allegedly improved version of
Land of the Lost comes with terrific special effects, dazzling CGI work, and absolutely no heart to bring it to life. Yes, it looks fabulous, and Will Ferrell is his usual mugging, silly-faced boob he plays in all of his movies. He might as well be “Buddy” from Elf as “Dr. Rick. Marshall.” His Marshall is a an idiot who happens to have latched onto a scientific theory that happens to be right ~ that dimensional travel is possible ~ but it doesn’t dismiss the fact that otherwise he is, as my grandmother would say, a “Knucklehead.” This already is a deviation from the original for purists who are keeping track. Instead of “accidentally” running into “the greatest earthquake ever known” with his son, Will, and daughter, Holly, in LOOL 2009 Marshall is actually butt-kicked out of a food-coma by Oxford student Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel; tv’s “Pushing Daisies”) and the duo purposely create that same underground eruption with the professor’s dimensional shift phaser. As it so happens, this requires they do so on the grounds of a decrepit water-ride located in a cave and operated by a tattooed yokel named Will Stanton (Danny McBride; Pineapple Express). Voila! We have the requisite Marshall, Will and Holly ~ 2009 style. My, how the family dynamic has changed.

Once they find themselves on the other side of the seismic activity, the trio basically doesn’t have much to do but let Ferrell act out whatever set-up shtick the writers Chris Henchy (tv’s “I’m With Her”) and Dennis McNicholas ("Saturday Night Live") can dream up. That’s right. The movie was written by a sitcom guy and a sketch writer from a show known for some of the crappiest sketches in history. Now, here’s a chance to bring that luster to prehistoric times too. Ah, well, at least there is Anna Friel, who brightens whatever she is in, although why the writers bothered to specifically not make Holly Marshall’s daughter and then waste the romantic angle entirely until an out of left field kiss with Ferrell at the movie’s end is beyond me. Danny McBride shows more sexual tension with Pakuni Cha-Ka (Jorma Taccone; part-time actor and writer at tv’s “Saturday Night Live”), who vaguely reminds me of a nude Robin Williams but not quite as hairy.

The real stars of the movie though as any “Lostie” will tell you are the Sleestak, those slow-moving, hissing, ridiculous-to-look-at-man-in-a-rubber-lizard-suit denizens of this strange world. In episode
after episode of the series the Sleestak would attack the Marshall clan with the ferocity of Angelina Jolie when an orphan is in her line of sight, but their moving along at the speed of a constipated garden slug hampered any chance of their doing much damage. Still, the Marshalls reacted with horror weekly (or weakly, depending on your assessment of their acting skills). I’ll credit Henchy and McNicholas for hitting their stride in spoofing the whole Sleestak phenomenon. They retain nearly their same silly look and lack of propensity towards momentum, and best of all they maintain a healthy contempt for the tunic as a fashion statement (don’t ask), but their ten minutes or so of time on screen is not a lot to make the other 83 minutes seem palatable.

Perhaps the most amusing cast member of the whole group has to be “Today Show” host Matt Lauer playing a version of himself. Just the opportunity to watch the straight-laced Lauer boil-over not once but twice and to a point of uttering the film’s only bit of profanity is worth the price of admission all on its own, which isn’t saying much for the rest of the picture. Oh, and as for Wesley, congratulations, Guy. I don’t think it would even take a Sleestak this long to make it out of the closet, but we’re glad you finally made it. Enjoy the light out in the open.

No comments: