Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | March 25th, 2022
The Lost City (Aaron Nee/Adam Nee, 2022) 2½ out of 4 stars.
A cross between Romancing the Stone and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, with a little bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in for good measure, brothers Aaron and Adam Nee’s new film, The Lost City, is nothing if not a fun romp, however silly it may frequently be. Starring Sandra Bullock (Bird Box), Channing Tatum (Logan Lucky), and Daniel Radcliffe (Guns Akimbo), with enjoyable supporting work from Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name), and others, the film goes all in on the absurdity of its premise. If this means embracing unfortunate cultural stereotypes along the way, so be it. Nothing like being proud of one’s mission to entertain, regardless of pitfalls.
Bullock plays Loretta Sage, a successful romance novelist without any romance (or life) of her own. A widow from years back, she seems never to have moved on from that tragedy, though her books are wildly popular. Beyond the writing, this is due in no small part to cover model Alan (Tatum), who embodies her leading man, Dash. Fans adore him; Loretta, not so much. It doesn’t help that he always seems to upstage her on the book tours. This latest one goes awry right away, despite the pleas of Loretta’s publisher, Beth, who has a lot riding on the success of the new tome. Loretta storms off, Alan in hot pursuit to apologize. Enter Daniel Radcliffe.
He plays Abigail Fairfax (ah, the sophomoric jokes made over this “gender-neutral” name!), and may just be the most engaging character here, though he is the villain. It’s delightful to see Radcliffe in this kind of role. Fairfax is one of three sons of a wealthy family, and not the favored one. To make his own fortune, he has a scheme to find real treasure following clues he believes are embedded in Loretta’s The Lost City of D. Her dead husband was an anthropologist, and she has some kind of advanced degree, herself (I have the lost detail, sorry), which means she speaks the language of an ancient civilization from a volcanic Atlantic island. Desperate for her unwilling cooperation, Fairfax kidnaps her, and off they go.
But not without leaving a few traces, allowing the seemingly dimwitted Alan to work with Beth to see where Loretta has gone. They hire the mysterious Jack Trainer (Pitt) to plan the rescue, and he seems everyone’s idea of a dream commando. One thing leads to another, however, and soon Alan and Loretta are on their own, with Fairfax in hot pursuit. Will their sometimes-comic misadventures melt Loretta‘s heart in Alan’s favor? Watch and find out.
It mostly works, for what it is. The caricatures of the island residents are painful, but perhaps they are no less one-dimensional than everyone else. Action-comedies are not always easy to pull off, so kudos to how well the job gets done. Bullock is always able to command our attention, and Tatum makes an excellent foil. If The Lost City never finds its way above middlebrow, at least it knows its place. Enjoy.