Lost City, The (United States, 2022)

March 25, 2022
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Lost City, The Poster

The Lost City is probably best viewed as a romantic comedy spiced by adventure elements rather than the other way around. Regardless, it’s passably sweet entertainment but, just as it’s unlikely to stick in the craw, it won’t hold a place in one’s memory, either. The generic-sounding title is appropriate for the material. The term “popcorn movie” somehow seems too substantial for a project like this, which relies on the likability of the leads and the chemistry between them. A better descriptor might be “cotton candy movie.”

Those old enough to remember will note similarities between The Lost City and 1984’s Romancing the Stone, which incorporated a love story between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner into an Indiana Jones-inspired jungle-based treasure hunt. Although the details are different, the basic template remains the same. In this case, Sandra Bullock plays Loretta Sage, a widowed popular author who has lost her zest for life following the death of her archeologist husband. When her editor/publisher, Beth Hatten (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), presses her for the latest installment of her popular series, Loretta complies with minimal enthusiasm. She goes on the book tour with even less relish. She is accompanied on the cross-country marketing binge by Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), the male model who has been the inspiration for the macho lead on the cover of every one of Loretta’s 20 books. What she doesn’t realize is that, for all his posing and preening, Alan has a crush on her.

The potentially boring tour takes a turn for the adventurous when Loretta is kidnapped by Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), a billionaire who has discovered The Lost City of D but needs Loretta to translate an ancient manuscript scrap that allegedly reveals the location of a hidden treasure. Initially, Abigail comes across as an affable eccentric but, over time, darker tendencies emerge. Meanwhile, Beth and Alan arrange for a rescue. Alan hires an ex-special ops agent, Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt), to execute Lorretta’s extraction. Not long after, with Loretta sprung from Abigail’s clutches, she and Alan are forced to pass through an unforgiving jungle to find civilization with a group of grubby henchmen on their trail. Impediments along the way include Alan having a problem with water leeches (resulting in a lingering look at either Tatum’s buttocks or those of a body double), Loretta experiencing difficulties climbing in a disco-themed sequin dress, and the chill of the jungle once the sun sets.

Alas, while there’s pleasure to be had in the interactions between Loretta and Alan and the all-too-short interlude with Brad Pitt is a hoot, the movie’s adventure elements are on auto-pilot. The harder co-directors (and brothers) Adam and Aaron Nee lean into the action/thriller aspects, the less engaging things become. Although Daniel Radcliffe does his best to froth at the mouth and act deranged, he’s rather ordinary as psychopaths come, and the entire subplot featuring Beth chasing down her missing author could have been excised. It doesn’t work – the Lynchian weirdness is jarringly out-of-place.

The Lost City may be designed primarily with one demographic in mind (older women), but it will likely work as well for any viewer regardless of sex or age. It’s easily digestible and, although some of the less successful elements may try the patience from time-to-time, the companionable chemistry – screwball banter mixed with romantic frisson – between Bullock (who’s much better in this sort of part than her more serious outings) and Tatum smooths out many of the rough patches. The gender-flipping of the character roles is fun, although Alan gets to do a little more than stand around and provide eye candy (and he is sufficiently self-aware to recognize that he’s the “damsel in distress”). But, while the promise of a real jungle adventure gets as lost as the title city, as a fun throwaway headed quickly to Paramount+, The Lost City is a passable diversion.

Lost City, The (United States, 2022)

Run Time: 1:52
U.S. Release Date: 2022-03-25
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity, Nudity)
Genre: Adventure/Romantic Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1