The gimmick behind “The Lost City” is a riot, but the journey there causes a lot of fun.
However, when a romance author and her cover model embark on a real adventure, comics explode.
It helps the stars Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum is a perfect fit for this cool and borrowed material. Think “Romancing the Stone” for the modern era.
What’s missing? We could use a little more romance and support players that are treated better by the scenario.
Loretta Sage (Bullock) is doing another book tour to promote her latest romance, but her heart isn’t in it. She wants to be anywhere other than on stage with Alan (Tatum), her Fabio-like muse who adorns her book covers.
Her frustrations are forgotten when a billionaire fan named Abigail Fairfax (a game but inexplicable Daniel Radcliffe) kidnaps her to help him find a long-lost treasure called the Crown of Fire. Only she can decipher the ancient texts to reveal its jungle location.
Do. Is not. Ask. It’s one of the worst setups in recent memory on more than a few levels.
That leaves Alan to save Loretta or better yet his old friend who excels at these types of exploits. enter Brad Pitt as Jack Trainer, the character who stole the movie is so aggressive that it deserves a police investigation.
Turns out Loretta might need Alan’s help too, which is a problem since he’s just the hero on the page.
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“The Lost City” works properly and gets going, but the long, dull passages can’t be blamed on its stars. Tatum’s knack for deciphering his material gifts, most recently seen in “DOG, ”Still a pleasure. Bullock loves physical humor, but she rarely gets material worthy of her instincts.
The same is true here, but she is wise enough to elevate what is assigned to her.
Less successful? A twisty side episode involves Loretta’s devoted manager, Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). Her efforts at vying for Loretta’s ego and, subsequently, saving her from doom yield little laughs or amusing wrinkles.
The character that woke up is written on it, which is weird because a point is exchanged between potential clients:
Loretta: “I’m a woman. I can’t explain it!”
Alan: “Yes? Well, I’m a feminist. And I believe a woman can do whatever she wants”.
It is clever and subversive.
The film’s romantic implications are clear, and Bullock and Tatum appear on screen. However, we keep saying that Loretta is a feminist who doesn’t need to be frugal. Fine, but she’s also a romance novelist who can tap into the deepest desires of her female readers.
Could there be comic potential in that dichotomy, a buried fascination wanting to be rescued by an Alpha Male? If so, “The Lost City” has no interest in it.
Let’s go back to Pitt, who makes an indelible impression within seconds and uses the super action rhythm to make us smile. An entire movie based on his character might be a good thing, but he wants more screen time here. (Just go through the ending credits if you agree).
This is weird material from the jump, but “The Lost City” has stumbled more than once. You need quicker dialogue to keep this car afloat or action sets worthy of modern day moviemaking.
Other than Pitt’s derring, we get very little of that.
The core romance never ignited the flames we expected to see, sadly. Did the filmmakers want to keep that smoldering in the distance, allowing us to focus on the quirky comic rhythms? Is it exaggerated to ask that Bullock makes assholes in distress and at risk of cultural condemnation?
The third act tries to settle it romantically, but the heart of the story isn’t quite in it.
That leaves a cool jungle walk without ever taking themselves too seriously, framed by actors eager to make the film’s better scenes stand out.
Hit or miss: “The Lost City” is the “Roman Stone” for the modern era, enhanced by actors who know how to conquer uneven matter.