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Film case study - Land of the Lost

Rating changed

Complaints lead to rating change from PG to M.

This film had received its PG rating through the cross-rating process. After complaints from the public, the Chief Censor called the film in to be classified by the New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification. As a result the film was classified as 'M: contains offensive language and sexual references'.

Find out more about the cross-rating process

The plot

The film is about three people who get transported to a parallel dimension.

The film centres on Rick Marshall, a scientist who has been shunned by the scientific community for researching time warps. Holly Cantrell, an avid follower of Rick's research, convinces Rick to test his tachyon amplifier theories. Rick and Holly meet their tour guide, Will Stanton, and set off through a water cave to test the amplifier. When Rick activates the amplifier, the cave trembles and the trio are teleported to an alternate world.

The elation of finding this parallel dimension quickly passes when they discover their only way home is with the tachyon amplifier and that is nowhere to be seen. During their journey to locate the amplifier and return home the group encounter an angry tyrannosaurus rex that they aptly name Grumpy, a reptilian army led by alien-looking leaders, and other dinosaurs and creatures who inadvertently take the amplifier all around the land. While in this foreign world, the four members of the group get to know each other very well.


Complaints about the PG rating on the film were received from a cinema manager (who had received many complaints himself from his customers), and from a person who took a 6-year-old's birthday party group to see the film. Another person also wrote a letter to the Editor of the Dominion Post about the film. All complainants felt that the PG 'contains coarse language' rating was too low and that the film was not suitable for young children.

As a result of the complaints, the Chief Censor decided to call the film in.

Under section 13 of the Classification Act, the Chief Censor can decide to classify a publication that hasn't previously been seen by the Classification Office, such as a cross-rated film. As Land of the Lost was already playing in cinemas, Classification Office staff went to a local cinema for a private screening to examine the film.

Classification considerations

Land of the Lost contains a lot of material that is targeted at an adult audience.

While not all PG films have children as their target audience, some of the content in Land of the Lost is clearly aimed at a mature audience - lots of the jokes have sexual themes and there is offensive language that is more suitable for older audiences. The film also contains scenes of violence which would be likely to scare younger children.

The film contains some drug references.

For example, a boy in Rick's science class asks, 'If you shot a whole lot of pot at the sun, would everyone get high?' During their time in the Land of the Lost, three of the characters drink the juice of a fruit they find. In the next scene, they're 'spaced out', amazed and overwhelmed by everything around them and talking about how hungry they are. Adults would be likely to perceive the scene depicting the trio drinking from the fruit in the desert as a typical 'stoner' scene.

There are a lot of sexual references in the film.

The amount of sexual content in the film indicated that the film was made for an older audience who can understand the jokes and put them into context. A lot of the sexual jokes are pretty crass, for example when Rick and Holly meet Will at his gift shop before the water cave, Will shows Rick and Holly his range of stock, including a 'boobie mug', while making the comment 'the perfect woman, a big ol' set of boobies and no head'. He then refers to a fire cracker as a 'Mexican vasectomy'. There are also repeated references to and jokes about masturbation, which again signals that the film is aimed at an older audience.

There are some potentially frightening scenes in the film.

In one scene a group of small dinosaurs attack an ice cream truck that has landed on the sand. The man inside the ice cream truck has his arm ripped off by one of the dinosaurs, but in a stylised manner without any blood or gore.

Classification Office decision

A combination of factors led to the M classification. The M classification signals that the film has content that is more suitable for audiences aged 16 and over. It is an unrestricted classification, so legally anyone of any age can see it. However the 'M contains offensive language and sexual references' classification will help people to decide if they want to see the film or show it to young children.

Classification Office's decision for M classification on Land of the Lost (PDF, 162KB)

Other film case studies

Land of the Lost poster

A ragbag of lackadaisical plotting, drugs references, puerile lechery and shiny effects work, an assemblage far from child-friendly yet not quite grungey enough to wow older teens.

Trevor Johnston, Time Out

Useful links

Stills from the film

A still image from the film of Rick, Holly and Will in the desert, talking to an ape-like creature who is crouching on the sand
The adventurers meet an ape-like creature in the desert
A still image from the film of a row of threatening reptilian alien beings with sharp teeth
The reptilian army
A still image from the film of Rick standing in a temple-like building, brandishing a long staff
Our hero (Will Ferrell) prepares for battle


M classification label
M: contains offensive language and sexual references


Descriptive note
The extra wording on a classification label which warns people of content in the film e.g. 'M: contains sexual references and offensive language'.
A system of rating unrestricted films where the unrestricted classification from Australia or the UK is given to unrestricted (G, PG, or M) films in New Zealand.
A consumer advice statement given for films and DVDs by the Film and Video Labelling Body: G, PG, or M. Ratings can be overturned by classification decisions from the Office of Film and Literature Classification.