'The Lost City' review: Bullock and Tatum escape to the jungle in moderately engaging romp
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Building its legacy on the backs of “Romancing the Stone” with a little help from “Indiana Jones” and, to a lesser extent, the Kate Hudson/Matthew McConaughey vehicle “Fool’s Gold,” Aaron and Adam Nee’s “The Lost City” deserves some credit. After all, it’s an “original” theatrical movie, and by that I mean it’s not borrowed from a shared cinematic universe or created with the intent of spawning a franchise. It’s a good ole’ fashion, homegrown movie that doesn’t have to abide by a certain set of rules. Sure, we get that at home thanks to streaming services, but one can imagine “The Lost City” could have gone that route though seeing it on the big screen is rewarding.
The movie finds unlikely co-stars in the form of Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, two A-lister’s whose statue has risen in the last few years (Tatum’s previous film “Dog” is still chugging along at the box office while Bullock found success on Netflix with a variety of projects) and “The Lost City” suits their talents despite the movies inconsistent tonality striking an odd balance. On one hand, you have Daniel Radcliffe hamming it up as a tech mogul/villain hellbent on finding a priceless artifact and Brad Pitt tags in for an extended cameo during the film’s best sequence as a gun-for-hire with a luscious mane of hair, but the cheap banter and tongue-in-cheek humor takes a moment to fully blossom. Especially as Tatum and Bullock are stiff until they loosen up towards the third act where the pacing and chemistry elevate to a point of passive enjoyment.
“The Lost City” isn’t exactly brimming with creativity although its fish-out-of-water-but-in-a-jungle mentality helps it coast. We follow a widowed writer, Loretta Sage (Bullock) who’s backstory only serves as fodder for the chaos later in the film and doesn’t exactly propel her to new heights. She’s a successful romance novelist whose books have amassed a legion of fans thanks to her hunky protagonist's willingness to, er, shed his shirt and throb when necessary. For reasons that are too kooky to explain or decipher, Sage gets kidnapped by a wealthy bureaucrat (Radcliffe – letting loose) to track down an ancient temple hinted at in her latest book: “The Lost City of D.” And yes, someone asks (is it D for “dick?!”).
This sends her cover model, Alan (Tatum) on quest to be her knight in shining armor and before we know it, they’re lollygagging through a triecious landscape with a fleet of goons on their trail who are shooting bullets while riding on motorcycles. Some of the jokes hit the mark (a scene where leeches infest Tatum’s intimate areas gets big laughs) while other targets are dead on arrival. One of them, a side quest featuring Oscar Nunez and De’Vine Joe Randolph, is murky but the latter gives an impassioned monologue late in the game that almost turns the tides completely.
“The Lost City” pops more often than it flounders with the charisma between Tatum and Bullock providing enough juice to overcome the film's many shortcomings. It should be an appealing option for audiences looking for their slice of escapism during this winddown from the pandemic. Ultimately, the Nee brothers get the job done and reinforce the idea that you can have a big-budget movie where the main characters don’t have to be laced up in spandex and capes to sell a few tickets. How’s the saying go? A little D can go a long way.
THE LOST CITY is now playing in theaters.