Land of the Lost is halfway toward amusing, which means it’s just as close to awful. Given not only its adult tone, but also the impudence it shows its source material, this remake of the nostalgia-beloved 1974 Sid and Marty Krofft TV series—here reconfigured into the tale of Dr. Rick Marshall’s (Will Ferrell) journey sideways in time to a parallel universe where the past, present, and future collide—often flirts with the type of wild-abandon absurdity that demarcates Ferrell’s successes from failures.
Whether it’s Rick repeatedly drenching himself in urine, attempting to instruct caveman sidekick Chaka (Jorma Taccone) about their master-slave relationship, or enjoying with Chaka and white-trash fireworks guru Will Stanton (Danny McBride) an extended drug trip (a nod to the psychedelia of the Kroffts’ ‘70s output) that culminates with Will daring Rick to make out with Chaka, Brad Silberling’s film occasionally contorts its premise into surreal, unseemly shapes. It’s a suitably insubordinate means of treating the generally crummy, if fondly remembered, small-screen series, still notable primarily for its creepy alien-lizard Sleestaks. And it’s one that pays sporadic dividends, due mainly to Ferrell and McBride’s dry, off-kilter verbal jousts, a hostile bookending bit involving Matt Lauer, and a willingness, however erratic, to be mildly random and stupid even within the framework of a mainstream Hollywood production.
The demands of summer event pictures, however, are as often embraced as subverted by Land of the Lost, which screws with its obligations—a climactic joke in which Rick saves fellow scientist/love interest Holly (Anna Friel) by denying his affections plays like a wink-wink spoof of a cliché—and yet frequently recoils before outright mocking its Planet of the Apes-indebted conceit. The semi-inappropriate lunacy of Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas’s script makes plain its recognition of the story’s inherent inanity. But because action-comedy requires some dinosaur-stampeding mayhem along with improvised one-liners, the filmmakers never fully partake in self-conscious silliness, which alas soon comes to seem like the only potentially funny available avenue.
A running Chorus Line gag, as well as Rick and Will singing a weirdo duet of Cher’s “Believe” while touching a giant crystal that gives their voices Auto-Tune vibrato, defy expectations via strange, ill-fitting arbitrariness. Such nonsense, however, is dutifully interspersed with straightforward poop jokes, smashing chases, and screaming CG effects that feel limply desperate, misguided concessions to an audience that one can assume would be just as content to have Ferrell goofily deconstruct the very nature of such an unnecessary project. Dadist ridiculousness is what Land of the Lost practically begs for, yet stuck somewhere between off-the-wall foolishness and turgid conventionality, what it mostly delivers instead is mirth-challenged mush.