Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #301: Land of the Lost Money

Universal Pictures did not have a good time this weekend. Their tent-pole weekend release Land of the Lost, starring SNL alumni Will Ferrel underwhelmed at the box office. Despite heavy marketing it was beaten by a no-stars, low budget comedy called The Hangover, and the Disney/Pixar holdover Up.

Some think the failure of this film reflects badly on Will Ferrell's star-power, and while I think it may be involved, there is a bit more to the story.

Here's why I think the film failed...

1. The Source Material: The original Land of the Lost tv series ran from around 1974-1976. That means that the bulk of moviegoers who watched it back during its original run are at least in their 40s, and those who watched it in reruns, now mostly in their 30s, mostly watched it as campy 70s nostalgia with cheezy special effects.

This means that the core audience skews a lot older than the executives who greenlit the project figured. Also, the original show really doesn't have the pop-culture icon status of a Star Trek, to really justify the $100+ budget.

2. The Adaptation: The original series was about a father and his two kids being tossed into an alternate, dinosaur-alien-monkeyman riddled dimension. The adaptation changes that to eccentric failed scientist, love interest, and white trash buddy. It's connection to that original source material, and the driving force behind it (the family & its survival), is gone.

Plus, the film was done as a half-assed parody of the original film, which could be construed as a mistake all on its own. This is because when you do a parody, you have to do it with your whole ass.

3. Marketing & Rating: The film was sold as the heir to Night at the Museum redux, a family friendly film with a comedy star that could appeal to adults. But they ended up appealing to neither.

This is because Will Ferrell fans will see him in an alleged "family film" and think it will lack the broad, raunchy, humour he's known for, and avoid it. Parents will look at the PG-13 rating and reports of semi-mature subject matter, and star Will Ferrell and think: "I can't take the kids to that." Meanwhile, the kids will ask: "Who is Will Ferrell, and what's the Land of the Lost."

This brings me back to the half-assed/whole assed argument. The film may have been better off completely forgetting about being the next Night At The Museum, and going for a balls to the wall "R" rated farce, and forget about the family audience, because they obviously aren't coming.

4. The Budget: From the ads, I just can't see where they spent the $100+ million. There doesn't appear to be anything radical, or new in the FX. The cast is relatively small, with only one "A-Lister," and I don't really see the spectacle that could justify the enormous budget.

Maybe they'd have been better off, as an R-Rated farce, by going the old claymation & puppets route, and toss in a few jokes about how all the creatures in this dimension look fake. Mind you, you can't milk a joke like that too much, but it is at least a joke.

Anyway, that's what I think. What do you think?

And if you think it's the fault of the rich people, go start your own blog.


  1. It's the fault of the Rich People!!!1!

    I kid, I kid! I want to be a "Rich People" myself someday.

    I haven't bothered to see it because, while I am in that 40+ demographic that remembers the show from my youth, what I mostly remember about it was that I didn't like it. I Honestly don't know how popular it was back in it's day. I just know it wasn't popular with me.

    As for the rest.....yeah, they'd have been better off either going for (or at least marketing it as) a full-on farce to get the tweeners interested or going the other direction and shooting for a borderline PG-13/R and taking it semi-seriously for the folks in my age group.

    I might actually like the premise that show was based on if it were treated seriously. The use of modern special effects would be icing on the cake.

  2. I am SO sick of all these remakes Hollywood is making. But is the part of the business these days. With the rate of success for new movies are low (60% of all films LOSE money, only a 1% make the big bucks) Studios need sure fire hit, that is why they adapt film on movels' comic books, video games to anything that will come with a prepackaged audience. It is loss protection plain and simple.

    That will ensure a good return on that critical first weekend.

    Problem with remakes or any source material, it needs to have a strong following and be a faithful and respectful enough adaptation not to alienate the true die hards.

    Problem with Land of the Lost it was NEITHER. The show was some camp was tv for two years and has been pretty much forgotten about from those who grew up watching it.

    The film is totally removed and far from what the original film is even about to appeal to what die hards (if there are any to begin with) and just too crappy to attract any new viewers.

    Land of the Lame was a case study on how NOT to do a remake. The new Star Trek and the recent Battlestar Galactica are examples on how to do it.

    I am waiting for the studios to start scraping the bottom of the barrel of all the 80's cartoon shows. When are we going to see them frak up Silverhawks, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Teen Turbo, Galaxy Rangers and Bravestarr.

  3. Since his "W" bashing play Ferrell has a lot fewer fans. It was posted on the other site that the NASCAR demographic finally figured out that he was laughing at them and not with them in "Ricky Bobby".