Review by C.J. Bunce
The Lost City arrived in theaters a little more than a month ago, but it’s already made its way to streaming provider Paramount+. It’s a step above your average rom-com, a better than average new release and a worthy unofficial remake of the 1980s classic Romancing the Stone. If you miss classic rom-coms steeped in adventure and lighthearted fantasy, this should be your next watch, a Sandra Bullock star vehicle with 16 years younger actor Channing Tatum as the potential love interest, a rare and welcome Hollywood choice–when was the last time you saw an older woman with a younger man in a major production? Add Brad Pitt and Daniel Radcliffe, and some goofy humor and high adventure and The Lost City is movie that would have been difficult for anyone to get wrong.
Bullock stars as romance novelist Loretta Sage. Tucked into the story is some heavy drama about her losing her archaeologist husband, prompting her general detachment from the world as she winds up her next–and perhaps final–novel. Her books feature lead hunk Dash McMahon, and her publisher has tapped Fabio-style model Alan Caprison for all the covers of her trashy romance series. Alan is played by Tatum, a daft but well-meaning and even admiring fan of Sage and her stories. As Sage starts her latest book tour she is kidnapped by the film’s villain, the unlikely cast Daniel Radcliffe as Abigail Fairfax, who is on the trail of an artifact called the lost Crown of Fire, referred to in Sage’s books and based on an actual treasure of a remote Atlantic island nation. Alan sees the kidnapping and takes his place as the actual Dash of the books as he attempts a rescue, first tapping co-aide Jack Trainer, a former Navy SEAL turned CIA operative played by Brad Pitt. Pitt is more Dash than Alan, setting up some of the slapstick humor for the first part of the story.
The first twist is that Pitt’s role is similar to his role in Deadpool 2, which is also similar to Tatum’s role in G.I. Joe: Retribution and Steven Seagal’s in Executive Decision, i.e. he’s not around all that long. Bullock’s lead is not the hopeless romantic of Romancing the Stone’s Joan Wilder–she’s serious and Not in the Mood for this life diversion. Yet she still has those bumbling bits that will remind fans of her humorous physical comedy in shows like Miss Congeniality. Neither is Tatum Michael Douglas’s hero–he’s more of the character in his 21 Jump Street movies. So you won’t be seeing this romance duo as the next Hepburn and Tracy or Turner and Douglas, but they still have their own brand of 1980s throwback rom-com chemistry.
The setting may also be just the thing for fans of the ancient codes of Moon Knight, Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure, the recent fish-out-of-water Jumanji movies, and Jungle Cruise. It’s for an older audience than Jungle Cruise, but has similar appeal, with the same brand of humor and energy. As the show’s villain, Radcliffe seems to be conjuring an over-the-top version of Jumanji’s Nigel Billingsley. The film has its missteps–the writers demonstrate they have no idea how the publishing industry actually works (e.g., writers don’t turn in to their publisher one chapter at a time), and the script has few twists and turns. This is not a roaring comedy, but it has its moments.
Ultimately The Lost City doubles as 1980s throwback rom-com for nostalgia fans and it’s a Sandra Bullock showcase (her sequined outfit is practically a supersuit) that shows she’s ageless and should be making more movies like this. A good date movie, check out The Lost City, which arrived yesterday on Paramount+, and is coming to physical home media in July.