Movie Review: The Lost City

Star power alone almost saves this undercooked 'Romancing the Stone' knockoff.

Turns out, star power can actually take you a pretty long way. That’s what I thought as I watched The Lost City, which wasn’t the ingenuous Raiders of the Lost Ark/Romancing the Stone-style revival I hoped it would be, but a watered-down knock-off, mired by a truly mediocre script. And yet, its bones are solid. In this case, the bones are a playful premise—a reclusive romance novelist finds herself on the run in a lost city with her hunky cover model—and its two glittering stars, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum.

I’m not sure why Bullock often plays uptight characters, as she does here and has done in such films as The Proposal and The Heat, but I guess it works for her. She seems to enjoy the incongruity of a buttoned-down person being put in increasingly absurd situations, often leading to comedic sight gags, such as a bit in The Lost City where her rigid Loretta Sage is strapped to a chair and placed inside a tiny getaway car, her legs poking from the car akimbo. And, of course, audiences love to watch her learn to relax, let her hair down, and succumb to the goofy charms of her co-star. In this case, the charming goof is Tatum’s Alan Caprison, who wants to show Loretta that he’s more than just a pretty boy. He wants to be Dash McMahon, the Fabio-esque swashbuckler he portrays on her novels’ covers.

Tatum started out his career playing brooding hunks but he’s really at his best when he gets to show off his considerable comedic chops (and, of course, his dancing skills). His comedic characters aren’t dumb, per se, but a little slow on the uptake—and the beauty comes from watching that moment just before things click into comprehension for him. (And yes, The Lost City is also smart enough to let him dance a little.)

Early in the film, Loretta is kidnapped by a ruthless (but polite) young billionaire named Abigail Fairfax—he insists that Abigail is a unisex name—played by a bearded but still boyish Daniel Radcliffe. Fairfax is bitter because his younger brother, Leslie (heh), has taken over the family business so he’s obsessed with carving out his own glory, namely through the acquisition of the “Crown of Fire,” a priceless ancient artifact in a lost city. He needs Loretta to decode the tiny strip of papyrus that he believes will lead him to his treasure.

Alan sees Loretta’s kidnapping as a chance to prove himself, so he recruits his old yoga trainer, who is also a bounty hunter, named Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) to help save her. Once they arrive on the scene, Trainer tells him to hang back. Alan agrees, as long as he gets to be the one who says to Loretta, “Shhh, shhh, you’re safe now.”

Pitt has a small part, but he’s having tons of fun playing this ultra-skilled hippie-assassin (I’d watch a whole film about his character). But of course, they have to get Pitt out of the way early on, so that Loretta and Alan can be left to their own devices. The script does just that, but I won’t tell you how.

Now, about that script. It already has five credits, but honestly? It needed more doctoring.

When Alan and Jack burst into the room where Fairfax is keeping Loretta, she expresses shock that Alan has come to save her.

“Irregardless, I am here,” Alan says.

“He means regardless,” Jack corrects, as he and Loretta share a meaningful glance.

(I’ve seen shoe-horned jokes before, but this has to be the shoe-horniest.)

Later, Alan and Loretta have a “witty” exchange about cake that goes something like this:
“You want to have your cake and do what you want with it!” Alan sputters.

“You mean eat it?” Loretta says.

“You can do other things with cake. Like give it as a gift.”

Readers, this conversation goes on for several minutes.

Cringey dialogue notwithstanding, The Lost City occasionally gets the job done. The bit in the trailer with the leeches that get stuck to Alan’s back is as amusing as advertised—just a moment where two funny people get to be funny—as is a scene where the two of them accidentally kill a couple of Fairfax’s goons and try to convince themselves that the men died of natural causes. We need more moments like this that let Tatum and Bullock flex their comic muscles.

Instead, a lot of the script seems super perfunctory, including a side plot involving Loretta’s agent (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who also flies out to the Lost City to rescue Loretta and has a thinly drawn romance with a cargo pilot (Oscar Nuñez).

Oh man, I wanted to love The Lost City so much. Instead, I was moderately diverted for two hours. I shudder to think how unwatchable it would be if bad actors had starred in it.