The receipts are in. “Land of the Lost” opened this weekend in a distant, disappointing third place behind “Up”($44.2 million) and “The Hangover” ($43.3 million). “Lost” hauled in a mere $19.5 million, which may not sound like an epic train wreck until you consider that its budget and marketing costs were reportedly close to $200 million and it had one of the biggest stars in Hollywood on its poster.
You could say that the warning signs for Will Ferrell first appeared on Friday, when the nation's critics blew raspberries and dogpiled on the comedy. Our own critic, Owen Gleiberman, gave the movie a C, writing, "the film's only conviction is its investment in its total lack of conviction." That's gotta sting.
Still, I would argue that Ferrell's box-office fate was sealed long before the movie even came out. For months, the trailers of the erstwhile SNL star's riff on the not-very-good-to-begin-with '70s Saturday morning kiddie TV show have been greeted by mild chuckles at best. It had the stink of death on it long before this weekend. If you found yourself laughing at all at the trailer, it was more out of conditioned response to Ferrell's previous track record than the actual goods being sold this time around.
Anyone who's honest with themselves has to admit that Ferrell hasn't been all that funny for a while. Did you see his one-man George W. Bush show on HBO? Just painful. It was like watching someone shoot fish in a barrel for an hour and change. “Step Brothers?” “Semi Pro?” The dude's been coasting for a while now. And the less said about “The Producers” and “Bewitched,” the better.
“Land of the Lost” is just the latest proof that Ferrell's shtick — the clueless, self-deprecating blowhard man-child — is growing stale. You can put him in a NASCAR jumpsuit, a basketball uniform, or a quantum paleontologist's khakis, but he's pretty much always the same guy. You know that at some point he'll take off his shirt and reveal his flabby belly, or dump dinosaur urine on his head, and then mug at the camera as if to say, Ain't it hilarious? Well, yes it was...the first time.
Look, I like Will Ferrell. I think “Anchorman” may be the funniest movie of the past decade. So I'm saying this out of love: It's time to change it up, man. Leftovers can be delicious, but sometimes you've got to dig into the pantry and serve up something fresh and new.