Sherlock Holmes (Will “What the hell happened” Ferrell) and John Watson (John C. “Seriously, you guys are usually funny” Reilly) try to protect the queen from being murdered by James Moriarity (Ralph “God, I hope you got this in cash up front” Fiennes). Everything else that would potentially be plot is irrelevant crap.
Because of the bad reviews, I waited until I didn’t have to pay for this movie. I should have seen it in theaters so I would have actual damages for my impending tort claim against this film. This took up like 90 minutes of my life. 90 minutes I could have spent doing anything else. I could have watched Plan 9 From Outer Space, because at least that’s the FUN kind of bad. This film somehow was never even close to amusing.
I have never seen a movie this aggressively unfunny. Even the parts of this movie that seem like they SHOULD be funny, particularly given the relatively high-level comedians who are found in the cast, somehow become irritating and flat. Part of it is that the film never feels like it’s surprising the audience. The more obvious the joke, the more likely it’s going to be what’s said next, so why do we even need them to say it? There’s an episode of South Park where Stan starts to see that everything around him is actually crap, envisioning bad films as filled with talking and dancing turds. This film was taken from that episode, then given brain damage from a series of sledgehammer blows to the head, then set on fire by crackheads. This movie makes me almost want to apologize to Uwe Boll for the things I’ve said about him. Almost.
It’s tough to really nail down everything that doesn’t work here, but if I had to say why I particularly hate it, it’s that nobody in the film appears to be trying. Ferrell and Reilly don’t appear to be invested in any part of this, going through the motions almost robotically without any of their added flair. In 2015, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig appeared in a movie for Lifetime called A Deadly Adoption in which they both play actual Lifetime characters with complete sincerity, the “joke” being that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig both played straight characters in a Lifetime film. A lot of critics agreed that wasn’t really funny. I actually thought it was kind of amusing, because at least it was original to spend all the time and effort to create a comedy set-up and then play it straight. I would respect this movie it was going for something like that. It wouldn’t be fun, sure, but it would at least have shown that they were trying.
What’s extremely weird about the movie is that it can never decide what any of the characters are. It’s like they had 3 different drafts of the movie which each had completely different interpretations of Holmes and Watson and they decided to use all of them. Holmes is portrayed simultaneously as a legitimate genius, a complete idiot, and also an insane person. This isn’t like in Without a Clue or They Might Be Giants where the character is supposed to be completely separate from the actual fictional Sherlock Holmes, thus explaining why they’re not actually good detectives. This movie features Sherlock being honored as one of the most superior minds in the world, something that just doesn’t sync with watching him constantly fumbling around doing slapstick. Watson, who at least can be characterized as a bumbling sidekick, is therefore forced to drop down in intelligence to the point of being a complete fool, despite still ALSO being a recognized figure for his work with Holmes. I think this is why this particular strain of comedic take on Holmes doesn’t quite work. You can’t have both of them be simultaneously competent and incompetent. That’s not to say that films haven’t pulled that off, in fact The Private Eyes with Tim Conway and Don Knotts does it with a pair of detectives, but it only works there because the entire world of the movie is absurd. This film can never decide how serious it is supposed to be and that makes for a lousy comedy.
The supporting characters suffer from similar problems, such as Holmes’s and Watson’s love interests Dr. Hart and the Feral Millie (Rebecca Hall and Lauren Lapkus), who are completely absurd except when they aren’t. Similar things happen with the villain *SPOILERS BUT F*CK THIS MOVIE*, Mrs. Hudson (Kelly Macdonald), who is revealed to be the mastermind of a brilliant scheme that is also pointlessly complicated and dumb. Seriously, these are all good people, and none of them could get a chuckle out of me.
I will say that one thing did make me laugh: There’s a scene on the Titanic with Billy Zane, and that’s a fun cameo. That’s about it.
Avoid this movie like the plague. I cannot believe the same person that wrote Idiocracy and Tropic Thunder wrote this. Someone should genuinely check on Etan Cohen to make sure he’s okay. I know all of these people will do better in the future, but this… this was rough. That’s about all I can say.
The Lego Movie, the movie that should have been crap but instead was a masterful meta-commentary, got a sequel which should have been crap, but instead was a masterful meta-commentary. I wonder if they actually help sales.
It’s been five years since the events of “Taco Tuesday” depicted in the first movie. Duplo/Mini-Doll aliens from the Systar System have repeatedly invaded and destroyed Bricksburg, occasionally taking people and things away with them. In response, the citizens now live in “Apocalypseburg,” a Mad Max-esque desert wasteland. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is the only person who has maintained a positive attitude about their circumstances, something that annoys Wyldstyle/Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), who wants Emmet to be more gritty and dark. Emmet, however, is troubled by a dream of “Ourmomageddon,” which has all of the Lego citizens sucked into a void.
One day, the town is attacked by the General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), who abducts Lucy, Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), Batman (Will Forte), Benny the Spaceman (Charlie Day), and Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie) and takes them to the Systar System to meet the ruler of Systar, Queen Whatevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Emmet takes off to rescue them, with the help of Rex Dangervest, a raptor-training space cowboy archeologist who has chiseled features under his baby fat (Also Chris Pratt).
Also, the whole thing is actually a metaphor for the imagination of some kids.
So, up front, you have to see the first movie for this one to really work well. This movie goes straight into the meta-narrative that was sort of the big “twist” of the last movie: Everything that’s happening is both part of the narrative (i.e. the Lego World) and also a representation of the meta-narrative (i.e. what’s happening in the Real World). Stuff that happens in each one actually impacts the other, however, which almost makes this a pataphysical movie… something that is really unbelievably complex for a children’s film and impressively done so well that this movie is actually really easy to follow.
Unlike the last movie where the revelation is pretty late, this movie makes it pretty explicit up front that the “Systar System” is a representation of Finn’s (Jadon Sand) sister, Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). In fact, if you don’t get that pretty quickly, I’d actually say that the first few scenes don’t really make sense. For example, in the opening battle against the Duplos, the Duplo monsters respond to being shot with lasers with “okay, I eat lasers” and to being hit with batarangs with “you missed.” Anyone who has ever tried to play an imaginary game with a small child will immediately recognize this interaction. What’s great is that you could analyze almost every scene from both the normal and meta levels and both work perfectly. I’m not sure how Lord and Miller keep doing it, but I’m damned glad they are.
The messages of the movie, and yes there are several, similarly work on a bunch of levels, both as the lessons learned by the characters and also the lessons learned by the kids through the characters. Everything is a pretty wholesome moral, ranging from the value of family to the nature of maturity to the fact that it’s easier to be a judgmental dick than it is to genuinely keep opening yourself up to people and hope for better. No matter who you are, there’s something to get out of this movie.
The music is just as fun as the last movie, particularly the movie’s signature song “Catchy Song” which is such an earworm while also being a song about how the song is an earworm. I also would give credit to all of Tiffany Haddish’s songs, which are hilarious and awesome, as well as Lonely Island’s song with Beck and Robyn.
Last, I have to complement how well the movie handles references, much like its predecessor. Unlike the last one, where most of the characters that pop up are just there because Finn’s dad (Will Ferrell) owned the kits, in this one, you can actually figure out why Finn and Bianca themselves would have these figures and the reasons range from funny to borderline profound. My personal favorite is ***MINOR SPOILER ALERT*** the fact that Finn keeps seeing Bruce Willis in ducts… because his dad showed him Die Hard and, as a teenager trying to be “mature,” that’s a movie that you tend to focus on ***SPOILER OVER***.
Overall, I loved this film. It definitely has a few slow scenes which tend to make more sense from the meta-level, but most of the movie is just so clever you’ll forget about it.
So, everyone probably remembers that period where most of the movies were just adaptations of older TV shows trying to cash into nostalgia. If you don’t remember it, congratulations on just being born, enjoy 23 Jump Street, and expect it to continue until the sun burns out. Some adaptations were pretty much the same as the series, like The Addams Family, some were updates, like Charlie’s Angels and Dukes of Hazzard, and then there were the rarer, and usually unsuccessful, category: the parodies. These were films that were simultaneously representing a series while also making fun of how ridiculous the series was, like The Brady Bunch Movie, 21 Jump Street, or Starsky & Hutch. For some reason, Will Ferrell, who made a cameo in Starsky & Hutch, decided to make two of these in a five-year period.
The first, Bewitched, was… interesting. It was a meta-film about re-making the TV show as another TV show which starred a normal human actor (Ferrell) as Darren and two actual witch actresses as Samantha and Endora. Basically, it tried to pull-off the series premise while also acknowledging the impact of the original series. This SHOULD have been a good idea, except that it wasn’t very funny and lacked direction… much like the show Bewitched (hey, I loved the show, but writing was not its strong suit). Maybe it was just too meta or, more likely, they focused too much on Will Ferrell who, as the surrogate Darren, is JUST NOT INTERESTING. Still, it tried something a little different than most of the remakes and actually capture the spirit of the show without being a direct copy and I give it credit for that. Four years later, Ferrell decided to try yet another adaptation…
*Warning: The above trailer is painful to watch. Much more than the film, even, and that’s bad*
Many of you probably remember the TV show Land of the Lost, either the original from the 1970s by Sid and Marty Krofft, the creators of Donny & Marie and H.R. Pufnstuf (and also Far Out Space Nuts) or the ‘90s reboot (also created by the Kroffts) that was re-run on Nickelodeon frequently. The first series is probably more well known because it had scripts by famous writers like Larry Niven (of Ringworld fame) and Theodore Sturgeon (of “Baby is Three” fame), plus some of the most ridiculous effects ever put on film which somehow were also entertaining as hell.
The basic premise of the series was that a father (later replaced by an uncle) and his two kids were… you know what, it’s all in the theme song:
Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition
Met the greatest earthquake ever known.
High on the rapids it struck their tiny raft.
And plunged them down a thousand feet below.
To the Land of the Lost.
Say what you will about the 70s, but the theme song always brought you up to speed. Basically, the family falls in a portal and ends up in a semi-magical land filled with dinosaurs (including Grumpy the T-Rex), aliens, Sleestak (which are reptilian monsters famous for being men in bad costumes), a crazy man with a cannon, and the early hominid Pakuni (including Cha-ka, their friend). It’s not in the past, but instead on a different planet where stuff randomly ends up from all around the universe due to random wormholes all around it. The 90s series was pretty much the same (but with better SFX and different names). Then, they decided to make this movie.
SUMMARY (IT’S LONG, FEEL FREE TO SKIP)
The movie starts off with an astronaut who appears to be lost on a different planet with three moons being stalked by something through a swamp. He looks up in time to realize that it’s a T-Rex, which promptly attacks him, leading to a horn-heavy sequence introducing the movie’s title.
It then shows us The Today Show with Matt Lauer introducing Paleontologist Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) who is there to announce the founding of “Quantum Paleontology,” which is the study of Time Warps. Lauer, as a rational host would, does not take this seriously at all and instead mocks the fact that Marshall spent $50 Million of tax-payer money to study something this insane. For his part, Rick is extremely off-putting and smug, but then walks off of the interview when Lauer brings up Stephen Hawking (Rest in Peace) calling Marshall’s theory “nonsense.” However, when Lauer tells viewers to look for Marshall’s book in the “I’m out of my freaking mind” section, Rick attacks him.
Three years later, Rick Marshall is now a laughingstock, working at the La Brea Tar Pits and giving lectures on Tachyon theory (again, he’s a paleontologist) and presenting his invention “the Tachyon Amplifier” to a middle-school science class. He’s met afterwards by Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), who is basically a blind fangirl of his. During this scene, Rick is eating an M&M-stuffed Doughnut, the sheer brilliance of which is glossed over. Holly shows Marshall a fossil which is millions of years old but contains the imprint of a cheap cigarette lighter as well as a crystal that radiates “Tachyon Energy.” She leaves the fossil with Rick, who realizes that it is, in fact, his lighter that was embedded next to a trilobite.
Holly returns a few days later to find that Marshall has finished his Tachyon Amplifier and also has been binge-eating everything in sight. Holly turns it on, revealing that it plays “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line due to Marshall having to cannibalize his iPod for parts. She tells him they’re going to take it on a field test, which she describes as a “routine expedition,” something they humorously hammer home. They head to “The Devil’s Canyon Mystery Cave,” a cheap sideshow attraction where Holly found the fossil. There, they meet Will Stanton (Danny McBride), a perverted survivalist who runs the Canyon and its gift-shop. He agrees to take the pair on a rafting trip.
On the rafting trip, Will tells them that there are rumors of “lizard men” who appear in the caves and even has his partner, Ernie (Ben Best), toss a fake one (comprised of a fake Sleestak from the old show) at the group. Marshall detects tachyons and tries to amplify them, resulting in “the greatest earthquake ever known,” which creates a series of rapids (it’s revealed that the canyon’s stream is actually just industrial run-off from a soap factory, so Will is unprepared for the whitewater). They end up going over a waterfall into a swirling vortex.
The group awakens in a desert on the planet from the intro, which is populated by random objects from human and alien history. When confronted with the grandeur of his discovery and the fact that he has effectively re-written human understanding, Marshall utters the most succinct celebratory phrase he can:
Matt Lauer can suck it!
They wander through the desert until they find two humanoid primates about to execute a third. Will tries to subdue them by showing them a lighter, but the two steal it and run away, leaving the third, Chaka (Jorma “I’m in the Lonely Island, don’t pretend you don’t know who I am” Taccone). Holly befriends him and seems to understand him somewhat (though seems unable to realize he’s pervertedly groping her), while Chaka pretty much mocks Marshall until Holly tells Chaka that he’s a great chief. They are all pulled into a sand pit, something that only Will seems bothered by (even pointing out that the other two are taking all of this way too casually), until they are ensnared by living vines. They try to escape the vines but are attacked by a T-Rex.
They run for it and are almost free, but then Marshall and Holly stop running to take a picture of the T-Rex, forcing Will to stand in front of it for scale. They then barely manage to make it across a small bridge over a chasm (which Chaka was trying to sabotage to save himself and not them) and the T-Rex stops. However, after Marshall makes several (completely inaccurate) comments about T-Rex visual ability and then says that it has a brain the size of a walnut, the T-Rex gets pissed off and jumps over the chasm to chase them. They make it into a cave, barely escaping the T-Rex they name “Grumpy.”
Inside the cave, Chaka explains that he’s a prince of the Pakuni who was overthrown for pooping in the water supply. Will tries to block up the entrance, but Rick says it’s better not to draw attention. Will counters that the T-Rex already knows they’re there, but Rick says the T-Rex has a brain the size of a walnut. In response to that, the cave is hit by a hurled object, revealed to be a giant walnut, wrapped in leaves and launched by Grumpy as a “f*ck you” to Rick.
The next day, the group sees a blinding light and Rick hears a voice telepathically asking for help. He runs off to find the source, Will follows him because he believes that Rick needs to be mercy-killed for “jungle madness,” Chaka follows Will for fun, and Holly follows to stop them. They find themselves in an abandoned city that contains a giant crystal in the middle. The group then mocks the inspirations for the architecture.
Chaka starts to warn them about Sleestak, but they think it’s just a word they don’t understand, somehow missing a giant warning, IN ENGLISH, that says “Beware of Sleestak.” (This is a reference to the warning written by a Revolutionary Army soldier saying the same in the show). The Sleestak then begin emerging and they are one of my favorite parts of the movie. Despite being mostly CGI, they still look like cheap costumes, with one even having a visible zipper (that is apparently actually part of the monster in-universe) and several with clear seams where the headpiece meets the suit. The group is almost eaten, but Rick randomly figures out how to activate the crystal based on a balls-out guess and they escape into the portal it generates.
They end up in a tesseract-like void that contains the alien Enik the Altrusian (John Boylan) who says he is a fan of Rick (having seen the Matt Lauer interview) and asks for his help stopping the Zarn (Leonard “Thou shalt have no other Spocks before me” Nimoy), another alien bent on universal conquest. Rick immediately agrees after Enik flatters him, despite Will warning him that he has one rule: “Never trust a dude in a tunic.” They are told they have to find the Tachyon Amplifier to stop the Zarn and return home.
Rick comes up with a plan to find the Tachyon Amplifier and also to hide from Grumpy using “hadrosaur urine” that he had collected (he compares gathering it to fly-fishing). The first plan is immediately rendered pointless because Chaka knows where it is. Along the way, they find the main portal entry point, which is littered with stuff from throughout time and space. They witness Grumpy and an Allosaurus fight, until they smell the urine on Rick, making this “one of the rare situations where dumping piss on yourself is a bad idea.” They eventually escape the two dinosaurs, killing the Allosaurus and retrieving the amplifier inside of it, which is immediately stolen by a Pteranodon.
Rick starts to give up, leading the others to abandon him. Chaka and Will bond over the fire, with Holly translating, until Rick comes back to apologize. He then sings the theme song to the show while a giant mosquito sucks out a ton of his blood, causing him to pass out. Waking up the next morning, he has a huge bite mark and a renewed spirit. They find a lava caldera filled with Pteranodon eggs and the amplifier, which requires Rick and crew to sing “I Hope I Get It” in order to keep the eggs from hatching, with Chaka performing a wonderful solo. They get the damaged amplifier back.
During their celebration, Will, Marshall, and Chaka all consume bad-trip hallucinogenic fruits and are left too high to function. Meanwhile, Holly fixes the amplifier and follows its signal into a cave, pocketing a dinosaur egg and finding a message from the Zarn and his corpse, revealing that he’s a police officer and Enik is actually a criminal who has an army of Sleestak. She’s captured by the Sleestak and taken to Enik.
Rick and Will track her to the Sleestak caverns and steal the shed skin from some mating Sleestak to sneak in. It’s revealed that these Sleestak are servants of the Library of Skulls, a group of aliens who sentenced Enik to exile and put him in a tunic, “as a symbol of his deceit.” They rescue Holly, who kisses Marshall. It’s revealed that they sent Chaka to Enik with the amplifier, allowing him to mind-control all of the Sleestak and open portals to anywhere in time and space. He then sics Grumpy on the group.
Marshall decides to face the T-Rex mano-a-dino and sends Holly away. He asks Will to help him, but Will declines gracefully. Marshall fights poorly, culminating when he decides to try and pole vault onto the T-Rex’s back, but instead is swallowed whole. Holly yells at Grumpy for eating a paleontologist just because he mocked Grumpy’s intelligence. Holly, Will, and Chaka go to stop the Sleestak, but, despite the fact that Sleestak can actually just be pushed over and stay down, are overwhelmed by numbers.
They are saved when Marshall returns riding Grumpy. It turns out that Marshall swam through the T-Rex’s bowels and fixed the constipation that was causing his angry demeanor. The T-Rex quickly destroys the army, something that amuses the hell out of Will. The four follow Enik back into the pillar and attack him. They accidentally shatter one of Enik’s crystals, closing the portal to Earth. Rick grabs a crystal that Holly found in the first act and shoves it in as a jury-rig. Will holds Enik in a headlock, agreeing to stay behind to keep Enik from taking over the world. Holly and Rick escape, leaving the other two behind. Rick then confusingly delivers a line from the show that was originally from Marshall to his daughter, Holly. Back in the Land of the Lost, Will discovers that the females in Chaka’s tribe are actually beautiful naked women who immediately take a liking to him.
Back on The Today Show, Marshall is debuting his new book, Matt Lauer Can Suck It, which has changed every aspect of society and become a massive bestseller. Marshall even points out that he actually asked Lauer’s attorney for permission to call it that, something that causes Lauer to attack Marshall. Meanwhile, a Sleestak egg that Holly picked up hatches, ending the film.
This film has a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score of 32% and its Metacritic isn’t any better. It was nominated for 7 Golden Raspberry Awards and even won “Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off, or Sequel.”
AND I F*CKING LOVE IT.
I love this movie. I love almost every scene of it. I think it’s a solid parody of a ridiculous but loveable property that’s been aged up because all of the fans of the series, even of the re-runs of the re-make series, would have to be in their 20s by 2009. It’s different enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s just repeating the series, but familiar enough that it still has some of the key similarities. The effects look intentionally cheesy, the lines are sometimes intentionally awkward, and the rules of the universe change fairly often, all of which are just like the show. Yes, these all happen in different ways than the show, but it’s still a tribute.
The biggest change, though, is the characters. This isn’t the semi-wily and likeable Marshall family from the original series. These are three of the most incompetent people in history, in their own ways. Rick believes himself to be an expert at everything, including combat, biology, and history, only to be constantly wrong. Holly, rather than being the more assertive and headstrong character from the series, is basically a submissive fangirl, despite being clearly the most competent person in the group. Will is so socially awkward, he even ends up telling them that he doesn’t need to go back to Earth at the end. These aren’t really normal protagonists and I think that’s part of what hurts the movie. They worked so hard to subvert audience expectations and parody the original series that it actually makes the audience uncomfortable during a movie that’s filled with adult humor and strange visual gags.
And that’s exactly why I like it. This movie isn’t typical, but if you can get past that and accept it for what it is, a subversive parody of a property that it actually still shows a lot of love for, then the movie is actually pretty funny. Is it the funniest movie I’ve ever seen? No. But I’m usually laughing just from the interactions of the characters dealing with the fact that they’re in such a ridiculous situation. All of the actors really give their all, too, and they play off of each other perfectly. There are a ton of scenes were you can tell that Friel is about to burst out laughing because of how seriously Ferrell is delivering such ridiculous lines, and I’m right there with her.
I know that this movie will probably never be a hit, but I think it doesn’t deserve to be called the failure that it usually is. It just was trying to do something different and, honestly, it was marketed horribly. But I think it works a lot better if you go in with no expectations of the film, because then you can appreciate it for what it is. I think this movie is just misunderstood, not bad, and I wish that people would give it another shot. This is the weird hill upon which I will die. And, for the record, one person who did appreciate this film was Roger Ebert, who gave it a favorable review. So, at least I’ve got company.