Synopsis – A reclusive romance novelist on a book tour with her cover model gets swept up in kidnapping attempt that lands them both in a cutthroat jungle adventure.
My Take – With ‘Uncharted‘ already out and the release of ‘Indiana Jones 5‘ and ‘Tomb Raider 2‘ seemingly far away, this latest from director Aaron and Adam Nee (Band of Robbers), who both co-wrote the film with Oren Uziel and Dana Fox, based on a story by Seth Gordon, is charged with the responsibility of filling in the gap of being the big adventure film set in an exotic location and starring very recognizable faces.
Right off the bat, following a similar roadmap used by Romancing the Stone (1984), the film doesn’t have the most exciting or novel plot, borrows from many adventure comedies over the years, and doesn’t push any kind of unique film making forward. Instead, in comparison is somewhat formulaic without much use of creativity.
However, a fact the Nee Brothers seem highly aware of. Hence they effortless focus their energies on inverting an important genre trope and successfully showcasing the irresistible charm of the film’s stars, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum.
The biggest draw of this mildly enjoyable film is simply the fabulous time everybody seems to be having, particularly Bullock and Tatum, who share delightful chemistry and capitalize very well on their skills in physical comedy. Reminding viewers once again that Sandra Bullock continues to be the long standing rom-com queen and that Channing Tatum can play a perfect himbo even in slumber.
The story follows Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock), a widowed, grieving, reclusive and highly successful novelist who actually started out as an anthropologist, but after the death of her husband and collaborator, used that knowledge to write a hugely popular series of adventure romance novels featuring a hero named Dash. But now Loretta wants to be done with it all and just close the series, the dismay of her editor, Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).
Among other things, she’s especially sick of being forced to promote her books alongside Alan (Channing Tatum), the dimwitted cover model who represents Dash, whose flowing locks have made him even more popular with Loretta’s fans than she is.
However, our stagnant life suddenly gets adventurous when, following a disastrous press event, she is kidnapped by Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), an eccentric billionaire, who has read her latest book and needs her help in locating the ‘Crown of Fire’, a priceless treasure hidden somewhere on a remote Atlantic island he specifically purchased. That too with a limited time in hand, before the resident active volcano erupts and buries the treasure.
Meanwhile, Alan, a witness to the kidnapping, is also heading to the same island, with a commitment to save Loretta and prove to her that he’s more than just a pretty face.
Considering that the two are wildly out of their element, fleeing from gun-toting henchmen and plunging into unknown caverns, it is a solid setup. While the plot is familiar, the script is smart and self-aware in a way that both winks at the absurdities of fish-out-of-water films and pays homage to what we love about them.
As a treasure-hunting adventure film, this one too hits the usual notes: your standard puzzle-solving, your crawling through very narrow cave openings, and so forth. But thankfully, the Nee Brothers don’t try to cram in elaborate mechanisms.
However, the film turns into an immediate winner when it inverts the genre trope starting with Alan’s clumsy rescue attempt which makes it clear that Loretta is instead the action hero and Alan the more appropriate damsel in distress.
A lot of the film’s funniest moments comes from his poorly-considered attempts to do well, even though in dramatic moments his stupidity suddenly evaporates and he becomes an articulate, emotionally mature adult. Sure, the inversion isn’t particularly clever, as we’ve seen both Bullock and Tatum play versions of their characters before.
But there’s an obvious likability to their dynamic, making it the kind of charming, star-driven, action-adventure that are not interested in world building but for providing an easy and effortless time at the cinema.
The only problem with the film is that its first hour is so strong, lively and funny that it starts to run out of steam by the climax. It’s not even a criticism of the second half, just the reality of having such a front-loaded story. It may not be great cinema in any traditional sense, but it is a fun much-needed antidote to the comparatively heavy films floating around.
Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum can play these characters in their sleep, and to their credit, they both seem engaged and willing to put forth the necessary effort. Bullock has always been good in comedies and in action films with comedy elements, in part because she understands not only how to deliver jokes, but how to look funny.
Tatum especially embraces the duality of a preening cover boy and the sensitive type out to prove he has substance. The two may seem an unlikely pair, but they share an easygoing chemistry, even if they seem more like friends than potential lovers throughout the film. Daniel Radcliff is so slight and likeable, you never really believe him as an all-out villain. He mostly seems out of place, but then that may be the point.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph is decent in her supporting turn, so are Patti Harrison and Oscar Nunez, who are kind of wasted in their minute roles. Brad Pitt‘s cameo is easily the best part of the film. On the whole, ‘The Lost City‘ is a silly and mildly funny adventure comedy featuring two enormously charismatic leads.
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 112 minutes