A Trip to ‘The Lost City’ is Overlong but Still Fun (Movie Review)

Paramount Pictures’ The Lost City hopes to be the kind of adventure/rom-com that would easily score at the box office during the 2000s. Times may have changed (even without a pandemic), but movie stars should still be able to open a Romancing the Stone-type film for the modern era, right? The Sandra Bullock vehicle was even originally pitched with her co-star from The Proposal, Ryan Reynolds, in mind. Mr. Deadpool certainly would have had a different kind of character than the hunky but not exactly witty one Channing Tatum plays, but the truth is it wouldn’t matter either way. Bullock has always had great chemistry with pretty much anyone: Clooney in Gravity, Kidman in Practical Magic, and the cat from The Heat, to name a few. Plus, a scene-stealing Brad Pitt and a heel turn from Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe are fun bonuses. The action might be less than what Disney showcased in last year’s Jungle Cruise, but the laughs are certainly better. The Lost City hopes to discover an audience more interested in jokes than explosions anyways, although there are plenty of big booms too.

Right as Loretta’s (Bullock) latest romance novel is about to begin a disaster of a book tour, she’s shuffled off to an island in search of a fabled lost city. The catch is she actually researched the language of this buried city, so now an uber-rich, massively insecure dolt named Abagail Fairfax (Radcliffe) is convinced she’s the key to discovering a long-lost fortune.

Hot on their trail is Alan (Tatum), Loretta’s blonde-wigged book cover model, who definitely has more fans than her. He wisely hires a real action hero dude named Jack Trainer (Pitt) to aid in retrieving the recently taken Loretta. Hilarity and grand adventure ensue.

Truthfully the adventure is pretty generic, but as I already stated, no one is seeing this for the plot. Bullock and Tatum (and the wisely sparingly used Pitt) are terrific together. Both stars, while massively popular, are sometimes underrated for their actual acting.

Tatum, in particular, gets taken for granted as just a “dumb hunk who can dance,” much like John Travolta in the 70s. There’s nothing at all easy at playing a character who is both naive and oblivious to the dangers that confront him at every turn. The actor also brings a healthy dose of sincerity that’s hard to fake. He’s a very strong half of this two-hander.

Bullock was last seen on Netflix’s really terrible The Unforgiven. As a longtime fan of hers, I know she can be just as amazing in dramas when the script is right. However, the Oscar-winner tends to shine in comedies where she can either be wacky (All About Steve) or straitlaced (The Heat). She’s certainly made subpar comedies too, but she generally brings her A-game.

As Loretta, Bullock is less razor-focused than in 2018’s Our Brand is Crisis, but there are plenty of strong moments beyond the laughs. Loretta wonders if all the cheesy books she’s made are worth anything artistically speaking. It’s easy to see this as a kind of meta role speaking to her numerous comedies that weren’t critical darlings (box office hit Miss Congeniality comes to mind). Again, Bullock just nails all of it, especially her chemistry with Tatum.

The problem is there’s too much to the story beyond the pair we’re here to see. Radcliffe has a strong opening moment as a Succession-like bro, but he has little to do but sneer once the cast is on the island. Da’vine Joy Randolph made a stellar impression in Dolomite Is My Name, but as Loretta’s overworked agent, Beth, she’s saddled with a tiresome plot thread that amounts to her always being one step behind the rest of the cast. A leaner script that kept us tethered to Loretta and Alan would have been preferable despite the talented supporting cast.

Still, The Lost City is a winner for the specific kind of light comedy director siblings Adam and Aaron Nee aimed for. Whether there are leeches on Alan’s back, a surprisingly durable pink sequined outfit in the jungle, or a car that’s far too compact for Pitt and Tatum, each of these scenes reminds me why I’m here. Let the good times roll.

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