While it’s true that great movies often leave audiences asking questions, confusion is hardly a litmus test for greatness. Land Of The Lost features a lot of talk about time travel and secret dimensions, but one question trumps the others: Who is this movie for? The film is strangely faithful to the Sid & Marty Krofft show it adapts, a Saturday-morning live-action staple fondly but faintly remembered by viewers planted in front of TVs between 1974 and 1977. But the show hardly demands a Watchmen-like fidelity. The film stars the reliably funny Will Ferrell and Danny McBride, but doesn’t give them a lot of room in the middle of all the action scenes and Dali-goes-to-the-junkyard sets. What gags they do eke out seem alternately too smutty and too subtle for the kids theoretically showing up for all the rampaging dinosaurs and lurching lizard-men. It’s a weird mix, but sometimes combining unexpected elements creates a powerful reaction.
Not this time. Ferrell gets some laughs early on as an expert in “quantum paleontology” who believes time travel can solve the Earth’s troubles or something. Shamed after a disastrous Matt Lauer interview, he drops out to teach high school, where an enthusiastic fan (Pushing Daisies’ winning Anna Friel) finds him and attempts to bring him back into action. With tourist-trap proprietor McBride in tow, they enter a mysterious alternate dimension filled with a lot of updated beasties from the Krofft series, including an angry T-Rex and the ape-man Cha-Ka (Jorma Taccone, of the Lonely Island comedy collective). It’s a land of monsters and wonderment, and a place where, from all appearances, no fun can escape.
Once it crosses into special-effects hell, the film doesn’t give up on being funny, but doesn’t have much luck, especially when the focus turns to the mugging, grope-happy Cha-Ka, a source of annoyance from the moment he enters the picture through the bitter end. It doesn’t help that neither Ferrell nor McBride bring their best material, with McBride offering yet another variation on an angry redneck, and Ferrell falling back on Ron Burgundy-like bluster and nonsense exclamations. They’re two unpredictable talents at their most predictable, and the dull action and half-assed story hardly make up for the deflated comedy. So who is this movie for? Maybe it isn’t for anyone.