"The Lost City" is the sort of romantic-adventure-comedy that seems to have been missing from the movie landscape in recent years. Movies like "Romancing the Stone," "Jewel of the Nile" and the "Allan Quatermain" films of the 1980s are channeled for "The Lost City," a movie that just barely works, powered by a star firing on all of her charismatic cylinders.
Sandra Bullock is having more fun than ever and commands the screen as Loretta Sage, a stuffy, romance "fluff" novelist who came upon her career only after failing as a historical writer. She's a widow, and not at all wanting to participate in her latest book tour, much to the chagrin of her agent, Beth (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) and her assistant (Patti Harrison, the absolute breakout star in last year's tragically underseen rom-com, "Together Together"). To add some spice to the tour, Beth has recruited the hunky male cover model, Alan (Channing Tatum), made famous for posing on the covers of Loretta's novels (think Fabio, but with a wig). Loretta can't stand this man despite his outward charms, being the type of girl who is much more attracted to someone's brain and not their brawn.
You might guess where there relationship goes. You might also guess where the story goes once a rich treasure hunter, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), shows up, convinced that Sage can help him find a lost artifact she referenced in her latest book. He kidnaps her and takes her to a newly discovered "Lost City" (no longer lost), the presumed site of the invaluable item.
Wanting to save Loretta, Alan hires a guide - played by an actor I won't spoil here - who is a professional at this sort of thing. They head off to the remote island, and try to evade Fairfax's henchmen as they pursue them all over the island.
The funniest trick in the film is that Loretta is kidnapped while wearing a bright, tight sequenced dress, and is roaming through jungles, mountains and temples all while having to navigate the ins-and-outs of her formal wear. It makes for a good recurring joke and also sets the silly, comedic tone. Bullock and Tatum banter back-and-forth, make daring escapes, and occupy nearly every scene. And while Bullock looks stunning in her sequenced dress, Tatum is the one that bears all, in a scene which requires Loretta to pick leeches off of Alan's buttocks.
And while Sandra Bullock is ironically more comfortable in this role than she is in her attire, Tatum's character is sorely underwritten. We know that Channing Tatum can be funny, appearing in films like "21 Jump Street," but here he transforms from fish-out-of-water muscle-head to action hero a bit too quickly. His character exists to drive home the tired "don't judge a book by its cover" theme, and Loretta falls for him...out of circumstance? Because that's what she's expected to do in a movie like this? It's all pretty flimsy. Radcliffe too, is too intense and not at all funny...in a different film, maybe his take would have worked, but a more memorable villain might have helped things greatly.
Despite all that "The Lost City" doesn't have going for it, it's hard to resist Sandra Bullock's pull and charm. She plays a strong, independent woman and is by far the star of the film, with Tatum a toting second...that in and of itself is a welcome update to the romantic-adventure-comedy genre. There's exactly one very good surprise, involving that hired guide that Alan brings on board, but beyond that, it's paint-by-numbers. But even painting-by-numbers can be fun depending on who you're playing with, and Bullock makes the trek a worthwhile one.
Judging by audience reaction in the theater I was in, "The Lost City" should have no trouble being found by audiences. It's a "good enough" movie that could have been so much better, but hey, here's rooting for a non-Marvel, non-sequel intellectual-property in finding its long-lost box office treasure.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy.
Run Time: 1 hour 52 minutes.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Brad Pitt, Patti Harrison, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Oscar Nunez.
Directed by Aaron Nee & Adam Nee ("Band of Robbers," "The Last Romantic").
"The Lost City" is in theaters on Friday, March 25th, 2022.
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