The Lost City hits cinemas like a charming throwback to the star-driven Hollywood comedies of the late 1990s and early 2000s: driven by star power, a high concept premise, and a fairly visible debt to older, more accomplished movies.
Romance author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire in the hopes that she can lead him to a fabled treasure buried somewhere on an Atlantic island. On the hunt to rescue her: her book series’ cover model Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), a naïve bumbler who has bought too far into his own press.
Viewers of a certain age will no doubt remember Romancing the Stone, the 1984 action comedy that starred Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas and acted as a career breakout for director Robert Zemeckis. Both films are based around a romance author kidnapped and thrown into a remote jungle. Both films see their protagonist aided and sort-of rescued by a cocky, over-confident man. In all fairness the specific plot details of each film diverge enough for the older one to be considered more an inspiration than a blueprint, but the debt is certainly obvious – and obviously heavy.
Despite lifting a solid, proven basis for a film, the writers of The Lost City (Oren Uziel, Dana Fox, and directors Adam and Aaron Nee) have a wobbly time finding their own course through the material. The introductory scenes feel awkward as hell, and the film’s second half has a tendency to buy its own con and follow an Indiana Jones direction when it should be mocking and subverting it. The bulk of the first and second acts, however, work well as a solid mainstream comedy. It focuses most of the laughs onto the performers – who are naturally funny people – and throws in a few well-played surprises. The result is a film with which the average viewer is probably only going to watch once, but at least they will broadly enjoy themselves while they do. The technical elements are fairly run-of-the-mill, but they showcase some good comic moments.
Sandra Bullock returns to romantic comedy for the first time in 13 years in The Lost City. It is a genre in which she largely established her reputation as a major star, and has lost none of her comic instincts or audience appeal during the intervening years. She is paired up well with Channing Tatum, another gifted comic actor, and it is nice to see the production embrace an age difference in its leads that goes in the opposite direction to the stereotype (Bullock is 57; Tatum 41). Daniel Radcliffe does not quite pull off playing the villain, the eccentrically named Abigail Fairfax. I like Radcliffe a lot as a person – he always seems remarkably upbeat and pleasant in interviews – but he always appears to struggle a little as an adult actor beyond his Harry Potter origins.
The Lost City is a reasonably pleasant diversion, and its target audience seems likely to find it, watch it, and have a great time. To be honest, after two years of coronavirus, quarantines, and lockdowns it is exactly the sort of fluff a contemporary audience needs.