The Lost City Review

PLOT: When a romance novelist (Sandra Bullock) is kidnapped by an evil billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe), the lovestruck model (Channing Tatum) who poses for her covers mounts a rescue attempt, only for the two to wind up in a life-or-death race to find a long-lost treasure.

REVIEW: A few months ago, I did a Best Movie You Never Saw on The Jewel of the Nile. In it, I asked why Hollywood has never really been able to recapture the magic of the two awesome adventure-romance movies Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner made together, with the first, Romancing the Stone, being a stone cold classic. While watching The Lost City, which tries hard to be a 21st-century version of those movies, it became crystal clear what the big issue is: they get the mix wrong. A film like The Lost City emphasizes comedy over action, whereas Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile emphasize action. Most importantly, those two movies had legit threat, while in The Lost City, the main baddie is cartoonish and non-threatening. The result is a comedy-action hybrid (with emphasis on the comedy) that would be disposable were it not for the efforts of its two stars, both of whom work overtime to make this a success.

Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock may seem an unlikely pair, but the two have easygoing chemistry, even if they seem more like friends than potential lovers throughout the movie. The romantic aspect is practically non-existent until a tacked-on ending that feels like it was a last-minute addition (with Tatum sporting a different haircut, something that screams reshoot). Tatum, in particular, seems hellbent on wringing the most laughs out of the material as possible. Playing a Fabio-style model, he’s shown to be a bit dense but well-intentioned, with him bent on proving himself more than a himbo to Bullock’s novelist, who thinks he’s just a pretty face who can’t wait to get his shirt off any chance he gets. Tatum can be hilarious, and he aces the role, making his character so likeable that, by contrast, Bullock’s character comes off meaner than intended because it takes her so long to warm up to him.

That said, she’s given a sense of vulnerability that really works, with her grieving the loss of her husband. They’re shown to have been real-life archeologists whose adventures inspired the romance novels she writes, and with him dead, she feels like the franchise can’t go on. Her archeological skills are legit, so she’s kidnapped by Radcliffe’s character, who believes she’ll lead him to a mythical “crown of fire” that will prove to the world that he’s more than a joke. You see, he’s the scion of a multimedia empire, kind of like an evil Kendall Roy; although Radcliffe is so slight and likeable, you never really believe him as an all-out villain.

The film also benefits tremendously from an extended cameo from Brad Pitt. Sporting his Legends of the Fall look, he’s a romantic soldier-of-fortune hired by Tatum and Bullock’s publisher (Dolemite is My Name breakout Da’Vine Joy Randolph) to run a rescue operation. Pitt seems to be having a ball and genuinely tickled by Tatum’s hijinx, with the two paired in a few fun action scenes.

I can’t help but wish the directors, Adam & Aaron Nee, had maybe amped up the action just a bit and brought on a truly threatening villain. Part of the problem is that audiences – or rather studios – like their movies cleanly packaged. The Lost City is being sold as a comedy, and that’s what it is, but with a little more threat and perhaps a dash more legit romance, it could have been considered a modern-day Romancing the Stone. It probably has more in common with a movie like Fool’s Goldalthough at least Tatum, Bullock and Pitt give it their all.

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