[4 June 2009]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
With Land of the Lost slinking into theaters like the dying 800lb $100 million gorilla it is, the Kroffts better take stock of their entire creative canon before another high concept idea comes along to destroy their nostalgia heavy cred once and for all. An oeuvre as tenuous as the one the puppeteers crafted during the ‘60s and ‘70s can’t survive another smart-assing at the hands of Hollywood talent that believes anything coming out of their craw is uproariously irrelevant, and with the beloved psychedelic kid crack known as H. R. Pufnstuf next up on the remake/revision/reboot chopping block, there’s much more than trouble afoot. The aging brothers had better be careful, less they turn over their story of Living Island and a young flute-playing boy named Jimmy to Shawn Levy, a solo Jonas Brother, and a dragged up Eddie Murphy as Witchie-Poo.
In fact, what makes Land of the Lost such an underwhelming pile of junk could have easily been avoided had the Kroffts committed to doing something akin to their old show, only with bigger special effects and less artistic (re: budgetary) restraints. The original series relied on the innovation of Star Trek‘s David Gerrold to guide it in a more serious direction. On the big screen, it was a copy of Jokes from the Dinosaur John that seemed to inspire the screenplay. Clearly, the brothers are caught in a post-modern mainstream conundrum. Stick too close to the original material and people will think you’re merely cashing in - memory lane wise. Go too far outside the reminiscence, and you end up with a flailing funny man, an overused character comedian, and a nubile young Englishwoman running around with a mini-sasquatch acting like an extra from VH1’s Tool Academy - Paleolithic Edition.
So we here at SE&L have decided to do the right thing, and give the Kroffts our unsolicited, and probably unneeded, advice on where to take the remaining items in their catalog. We have purposefully avoided a few shows (let’s face it - nothing could save Dr. Shrinker) and avoided what could best be called the duo’s Love Boat Lite franchises - aka shoddy celeb-athons Lost Saucer and Far Out Space Nuts. No, the best material for a cinematic jumpstart remains the more fantastical shows they forged. Land of the Lost may have tapped into a growing underage fascination with all things…um…Jurassic Park, but for our money, nothing spells mega-bucks like singing animals, talking head gear, and a slimy creature from the deep blue sea bunking with a couple of hormonally uneasy California teens. Cue Johnny Whittaker…
Billed as “The British Monkees” at the time - which is odd, considering what the Pre-Fab Four were marketed as during their brief TV tenure - this tale about talented insects doing battle with a fame-whoring battleaxe who lives in a giant jukebox seems perfect for today’s Hannah High School Camp Rock Musical crowd. Even better, the filmmakers can hand pick a uniformly unknown cast, raise ‘em up Disney style, and the market the crap out of them until puberty - or the lawsuit - hits. For the Kroffts, it could/would their own pre-teen cash machine. For the role of superstar wannabe Benita Bizarre, a failing one time beauty who is desperate to have a few more moments in the limelight, we say stick with what works - Janice Dickenson, or perhaps another certified plastic surgery disaster, Cher.
This will be a tough one, but follow us here. First off, whoever tackles this project will have to clean up the horribly un-PC elements involved in the original series. After all, these living chapeaus used to mimic the kind of stereotypes one expected to wear them, leading to goombah fedoras, hayseed straw hats, and worst of all, a cigar story “injun” stove pipe model. After that, it’s smooth sailing. Do a little motion capture, get an up and coming child star to fill the shoes so ably accessed by one Butch Patrick, and turn this story of a boy trapped in a magician’s hat (and the land of talking toppers within) into a full blown F/X extravaganza. Of course, no Krofft production would be complete without a certified star turn as villain. And who does SE&L suggest for HooDoo, the ‘flamboyant’ evil prestidigitator? John Travolta - he’s great at fey wickedness.
This is the biggest no brainer of the bunch. A young boy keeping an ocean creature as a pet has been all over the Multiplex as of late, what with The Water Horse and…well, The Water Horse vying for quality kid vid attention. In this case, one could skew the material a little older, and go for a couple of Friends of Apatow in the leads - say Michael Cera as Johnny and Jonah Hill as Scott. Grab another Superbad alum - Emma Stone - as the hottie down the street who our hero pines away for (complete with pimply pop love songs) and a gaggle of celebrity voices for the all important roles of CG sea monsters Sigmund, Big Momma, Big Daddy, and brothers Burp and Slurp, and one can’t imagine the cash not rolling in. Perhaps the most important element - no small humans in suits. We were dumb in the 70s. We’d believe anything. But post-millennial moviegoers can sense a little person in a costume a mile away.
Let’s face it - Lindsay Lohan’s stock and trade in Tinsel Town is at an all time low. She’s so last week that she can’t even get arrested for getting arrested. What better way to start the slow and painful road trip toward entertainment rehabilitation than co-starring in this blatant Love Bug rip-off about a car with a mind of its own. Sure, she’d have to share the set-up with adolescent male buddies Barry and C.C., but she needs to get used to such subpar billing. Of course, as with any animated vehicle…vehicle, Wonderbug and his normative alter-ego Schlepcar would have to be state of the art. Maybe the Kroffts could convince the Wachowskis to step in and handle the directing duties. They probably have a warehouse of Speed Racer leftovers they could retrofit for this project (it’s not like anyone’s calling for a sequel to that notorious, non-starter, right?).
Sincerely, of all the semi-serious ideas being tossed around here, the notion of a big screen Dark Knight like look at two fetching female super heroines has the feeling of Thelma and Louise with less whining and more Electra-powers. By days, these babes work as journalists. By night, they are spandex wearing, take no prisoner bad-asses, cleaning up the violent city streets and looking fab-u-lous in the process. With Hollywood currently going ga-ga over any under 30 waif with a non-existent waistline and an even smaller resume, this would be the perfect vehicle for a pair of our more ‘seasoned’ sexpot performers. Give Quentin Tarantino the greenlight, let him hire his dream duo, and get ready for the real grindhouse experience, comic book Kill Bill style…or something like that.