Movie Review: “The Lost City”


Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in "The Lost City"

Let’s get this out of the way: “The Lost City” is essentially a remake of 1984’s “Romancing the Stone.” There are tweaks and updates, but the same basic structure exists wherein a homebody romance novelist is suddenly embroiled in a jungle adventure alongside a mismatched love interest while pursued by villains over some artifact. There’s even a sequence in “The Lost City” involving dancing and a small village that occurs at almost the exact same point in the story and plays out the exact same way as it does in “Romancing the Stone.” This is hardly the first time that Hollywood has produced an updated version of a movie without it being a direct remake, and although it has other flaws beyond its carbon copy origins, “The Lost City” is packed with enough charm and laughs to make for a fairly fun experience.

Following the death of her husband, archeologist turned romance novelist Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has become reclusive and is dragging her feet to finish the latest book in her popular series featuring adventurers (and lovers) Lovemore and Dash. Loretta is coaxed into going on a book tour to drum up sales of her poorly received novel, where she’s paired up with Alan (Channing Tatum), the hunky cover model stand-in for Dash. But when Loretta is whisked away by an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who believes that she can help him find an ancient artifact on a tropical island, Alan follows them in the hopes of rescuing a woman who mostly loathes him.

Directors Aaron and Adam Nee (working from a script that they co-wrote with Oren Uziel and Dana Fox) make a lot of missteps with “The Lost City.” There’s a noticeable lull in the middle of the film that features fewer jokes and fewer musical cues. However, that last part may be a good thing because the first act is filled with numerous song bits that are stacked on top of each other in such a way that it feels like hyperactive shuffle mode, and it ends up diluting the comedic moments the more it occurs. There are also odd technical mistakes that show up multiple times, including obvious body doubles and terribly executed green screen compositing.

And yet, it’s hard to outright dismiss “The Lost City.” Good-looking actors with impressive chemistry deliver multiple funny moments while charming their way through the type of adventure plot rarely seen (outside of movies like “Uncharted”). There aren’t just echoes of “Romancing the Stone” in the film but also borrowed bits from “Miss Congeniality” (Bullock’s character doesn’t know how to navigate fashion) and “21 Jump Street” (Tatum’s character says dumb things only to be corrected by smarter people baffled by his idiocy). Despite all that, it works. Alan the Himbo isn’t bright, but his heart is in the right place, and he’s trying his best, even if that is often a massive failure. That blends well with the sardonic Loretta, who just wants to eat cheese and drink her chardonnay on ice — a lonely lifestyle that has only diminished whatever social skills she may have once had. Their banter is lively, and their burgeoning romance feels real based on a well-managed mixture of common ground and complementary facets.

Radcliffe is terrific as an ultrarich loser who tries to walk the line between sophisticate and maniacal villain but mostly bumbles in his spoiled attempts to get what he wants. His repartee with Bullock works exceptionally well and makes for an antagonist that viewers will root against but also enjoy having around. Also, while it may have been intended to be a cameo or fun secret, Brad Pitt has been featured in enough posters and trailers (however fleeting) that it’s not much of a spoiler to say that he plays Alan’s surprisingly resourceful yoga buddy. The dynamic between Pitt and Tatum is akin to Jason Bourne and Jason Bourne’s dimwitted dog, which adds a novel flair to their scenes where they’re supportive of each other as they face off against Radcliffe’s mercenaries despite Alan being astonishingly inept. The fighting sequences and jungle exploration in “The Lost City” are mostly done well by combining the language of action/adventure films with the awkwardness of injecting average people into such intense moments. The only time these scenes don’t work is usually due to some unpolished technical approaches that throw viewers out of the moment.

“The Lost City” has a clear plotline with character arcs and well-established relationships, which is far more than many other bigger movies can boast. The exotic setting feels like a fun throwback, and Pinar Toprak’s score has a suitably retro vibe that’s evocative of adventure movies from the ‘80s. Most of the story is predictable, it’s unevenly paced and the Nees’ inexperience helming big feature films shows through far too often, but it’s a familiar formula that works due to some clever comedy and charming actors who find ways of adding unique shades to the established tropes. Like much of the romance genre, “The Lost City” has its problems, but it’s a surprisingly pleasant slice of entertainment, providing what people expect from it and even offering up some inspired moments that you wouldn’t anticipate from such work.


Starring: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da'Vine Joy Randolph
Directors: Aaron and Adam Nee

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