Film Review: The Lost City
The Lost City
Directors: Adam Nee, Aaron Nee
In Theaters 03.25
I’ve never read a modern “romance” novel, but back in the days when hanging out in a book store was still something people did, I used to get a bemused chuckle out of some of the covers. The Lost City, the new Sandra Bullock comedy, takes direct aim at this supreme achievement in campy pandering.
In The Lost City, Bullock plays Loretta Sage, a linguist and scholar turned romance novelist. Loretta is famous for her series of novels—featuring a long haired, musclebound heartthrob named “Dash”—which have brought at least as much fame to her cover model, Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum) as they have to Loretta. While the two are promoting her latest book, The Lost City Of D, Loretta finds herself abducted by Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe of the Harry Potter films), a conniving billionaire who is looking to find the legendary treasure featured in the book.
It seems that Loretta’s background in linguistics included studying the legend, and she’s one of the only people out there who can read the ancient language. Fairfax believes that she is the key to finding the titular Lost City, and he will stop at nothing to find it. Alan, who has harbored feelings for Loretta for years, must prove that there’s more to him than just his looks as he sets off to find her, with the help of a real-life version of Dash, a mercenary called Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt). Loretta and Alan find themselves thrust into the kind of steamy jungle adventure that usually exists only in the pages of her books, and they learn more than they expected about each other and themselves along the way.
It goes without saying that The Lost City is just a thinly disguised reworking of Romancing the Stone and its sequel, Jewel of the Nile, but it’s a point that’s worth repeating. The fresh element that directors and co-writers Adam and Aaron Nee bring to The Lost City is in making the male lead even more out of his element in a real-world adventure than the heroine, and it’s a clever and welcome play on gender stereotyping.
Bullock in a kooky romantic comedy takes genuine effort to mess up, and she’s well matched by Tatum, who excels at not taking himself too seriously. The two stars have a lot of chemistry and bring a lot of appeal to The Lost City. Pitt doesn’t get nearly as much screen time, but he has the highest laugh ratio of the three, having a blast poking fun at both his Legends of the Fall pretty boy persona and the more ruggedly macho roles that finely won him his male fans. While I have to be clear that part of the issue may be that I’m such a longstanding Potterhead that I do struggle with taking Radcliffe seriously in other roles, he stood out by a mile for me as the weakest link in the cast. The character is so flat that performing him would be trouble for anyone, and while Radcliffe has a sense of humor about himself as well, over-the-top mugging simply doesn’t suit the former child star.
The Lost City never fully delivers on the promise of memorable action or dialogue, but it’s a briskly entertaining romcom with charm to spare. There should be no illusions that you’re going into anything great here, and The Lost City too often undermines its own potential by playing things too broadly. Still, what works about the film manages to outshine what doesn’t, and if you’re looking for light and cute escapist entertainment, a trip to The Lost City makes for an ideal weekend getaway. –Patrick Gibbs