In evaluating the films released thus far this year, it is hard to think of one that more closely aligns with about everything you would expect than The Lost City. It's a comedy about a romance novel essentially coming to life that stars Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum as unlikely adventurers who find themselves growing closer together against a backdrop of PG-13 peril.
That, in a nutshell, tells you all you need to know about this silly yet straightforward film. It packs some good chuckles thanks to the charm of its leads. However, it finds diminishing returns as its humor begins to wear thin the longer it goes on.
The film begins with Bullock as Loretta Sage, a reclusive romance novelist who spends most of her days locked away from the world after her husband's death. Following a book tour stop with Tatum's himbo cover model Alan, she's kidnapped by Daniel Radcliffe's wealthy media mogul Fairfax. Fairfax hopes to use Loretta to help him find fictional treasure she wrote about that he believes is real. Alan launches a rescue attempt despite being way out of his depth, and shenanigans ensue in a modern updating of Romancing the Stone.
The best part of the film happens when Brad Pitt arrives as a suave mercenary and part of the rescue mission. With a real sense of grace and comedic bravado, Pitt does everything from leaping over a fence to flipping his luscious locks while a giant explosion happens behind him. The ending to this action rescue is a fitting cherry on top that is the film's most surprising moment.
The rest of the movie isn't able to live up to the energy of that early scene, despite the winning chemistry of Tatum and Bullock. Many of the jokes land, but they become tedious when the actors are left to riff on their situation, leading to lengthy laugh-free stretches. This is especially unfortunate when the hilarious supporting cast of Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison, Raymond Lee, Bowen Yang and Oscar Nuñez are vastly underutilized. Even the committed and conniving Radcliffe often feels forgotten.
Still, the film is brisk and breezy, never getting too bogged down in its missed opportunities. Will The Lost City be hailed as one of the great comedy movies of the year? Probably not. Is it a playful and heartfelt film that will offer a nice time out at the movies? Yeah, it most likely will. In particular, the manner in which it pokes fun at the tropes of romance novels helps keep the movie going through its shaky moments. It does this lovingly, never coming off as mean-spirited about the genre it's playing with.
The Lost City is at its best when it is light and silly, smoothing over some of the rougher edges where its jokes don't always land. When it shifts from being less about the gags and more about the relationship between the leads, you're willing to go along with it because of the goodwill it has built up.
It is a film that is abundantly cheesy and owns it, reveling in the romance that is as much about its heart as it is about its humor. ♦
THE LOST CITY
Directed by Aaron Nee, Adam Nee
Starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe