The Lost City – Film Review
by David Turpin
Directors – Aaron Nee, Adam Nee
Writers – Oren Uziel, Dana Fox, Adam Nee
Stars – Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Brad Pitt, Patti Harrison
Fear not! After an ill-starred Oscar bid in last year’s swiftly forgotten Netflix drama The Unforgivable, Sandra Bullock returns to light-comedic fiefdom. Her vehicle of choice is The Lost City, a by-the-numbers but not wholly unpleasant trifle that – by virtue of not being based on a comic book or podcast – arrives in cinemas with a kind of default exoticism.
Truth be told, although this is notionally an ‘original property’, the film – directed and co-written by brothers Aaron and Adam Nee – owes more than a little to Robert Zemeckis’ Romancing the Stone (which itself owed a debt to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but nevertheless boasted the spectacle of the great Kathleen Turner dragging yet another unworthy showcase over the finish line). As in that earlier film, the heroine is a romance novelist, unexpectedly – well, quite expectedly, really – thrust into a jungle adventure that resembles the plot of one of her own tales, and rekindles her muse, to boot.
Romance is provided by Channing Tatum, in full Charming Potato mode as the cover model of said novels. This well-meaning two-dimensional beefcake springs into action on an SOS (Save Our Sandra) mission after Ms Bullock is kidnapped by Daniel Radcliffe, who has a fixation on locating a particular ancient whatsit. Will Sandra be gingerly plucking river leeches off Channing’s shapely posterior before an hour is up? Stay tuned to find out.
While the Indiana Jones films and Romancing the Stone were at least theoretically made within living memory of the 30s and 40s pulp adventures they pillaged, The Lost City feels more… holographic. It has a synthetic, copy-of-a-copy quality, right down to its generic title (changed at the last minute from the more salacious The Lost City of D), which feels like the title of a made-up movie on a cinema marquee in another movie. It’s the kind of film that will probably play best as in-flight entertainment, though in an era of diminished expectations, that’s not necessarily the worst thing.
The action scenes are persuasively handled. A couple of car chases play cleanly and clearly, and a brief cameo from Brad Pitt provides some amusing slapstick combat. The comedy fares less well, much of it feeling like a first draft that the actors were relied upon to ‘give colour’. In one particular scene – taking place after the accidental dispatch of a pursuing henchman – Bullock and Tatum seem to be casting about endlessly in search of a punchline that never arrives. The always delightful Da’Vine Joy Randolph is ready and willing but given nothing to work with. When she delivers an extensive monologue about how overworked she is, it’s unclear if the scene is even supposed to be funny – and if so, why. Elsewhere, the talented Patti Harrison plays a ‘social media consultant’ who keeps talking about Shawn Mendes for… some reason. Many, many scenes culminate in one-liners or scatological quips delivered while the speakers’ backs are turned – a sure sign of a comedy that has been ‘punched up’ with post-production overdubs.
It’s hard to be angry with The Lost City, though. If nothing else, it’s a touching reminder of the days when pure escapism could be two stars pratfalling through a silly adventure, without an extended universe in sight. It also boasts a different kind of star turn – from veteran costume designer Marlene Stewart, who graces Tatum with a just-so neck pillow, and adorns Bullock in a magnificent fuchsia jumpsuit that is by far this slight but harmless film’s most memorable component.