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Originally published June 4, 2009 at 2:17 PM | Page modified June 4, 2009 at 2:18 PM

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Movie review

Stale "Land of the Lost" travels to the land of the brainless

"Land of the Lost," starring Will Ferrell, is a $100 million rehash of the 1974 television series about dinosaurs and time travel.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

"Land of the Lost," with Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone. Directed by Brad Silberling, from a screenplay by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas. 100 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content and language including a drug reference. Several theaters.

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"Take off your thinking cap."

So advised a comedian introducing her disposable new movie at the Seattle International Film Festival a couple of weeks ago.

But how does that help? If you take it off, do the dumb jokes just seem less dumb? Or do they somehow seem smarter? If you insist on keeping your thinking cap, are you incapable of enjoying the movie? Are you making yourself superior to it?

It's hard to think of a summer movie less in need of a thinking cap than "Land of the Lost," Brad Silberling's $100 million rehash of a cheesy television series that was aimed primarily at children when it first appeared in 1974.

It's hard to say what audience Silberling had in mind. For the kids, there's a steady parade of dinosaurs, time-travel adventures and absent-minded- professor jokes. But there are no kids to identify with.

And the PG-13 rating all but announces that this is a Will Ferrell comedy, aimed squarely at "Saturday Night Live" fans (and partly written by an "SNL" writer, Dennis McNicholas). This may be the first movie to make jokes about dinosaur dung, saliva and genitalia and to construct an entire scene around the uses of dinosaur urine.

Sad to say, there's not much else going on in "Land of the Lost," though the movie begins with a cute sendup of the "Today" show, complete with the real Matt Lauer flipping out. He's trying to match the berserk behavior of Ferrell's character: Dr. Rick Marshall, a washed-up, egotistical scientist who's pushing his latest crackpot book when he throws a tantrum on the show.

Eventually Marshall is transported, along with his assistants Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) and Will Stanton (Danny McBride), to a parallel universe populated largely by giant beasts and primates, including Chaka (Jorma Taccone), who becomes their mascot.

With surprising ease, Chaka learns to communicate with the visitors, but then so does a T-Rex who apparently can read their minds. He takes offense at Marshall's description of his brain as being the size of a walnut.

Silberling had some success creating the fantasy world of "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004), and occasionally he comes up with a dreamy visual touch or a witty sight gag (a sequence about mosquitolike bloodsuckers pays off).

But the soundtrack is littered with pop songs that are used lazily to create a sense of dislocation ("A Chorus Line" becomes a tiresome running gag), and the actors do little to establish credible relationships between the characters.

At one point, Marshall is told that "the fate of the universe depends on you," but nothing really seems at stake here.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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