Uncharted might’ve conquered the box office a couple of weeks ago, but few would call it the next Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Lost City, on the other hand, has the potential to be this generation’s Romancing the Stone. Both films put a clever spin on the romantic adventure novels you see middle-aged housewives reading with a glass of wine in the tub while listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber. At least, I assume that’s the demographic. In any case, The Lost City takes what sounds like a tired premise and has a treasure trove of fun with it. The charming leads and a stylish direction from the Nee brothers amount to one of the early year’s more pleasant surprises.
Sandra Bullock couldn’t be more perfectly cast in the Kathleen Turner role as Loretta Sage, a widowed romance writer. The main selling point for her books is Dash McMahon, the Fabio-haired beefcake on the covers. Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum) is the model for Dash. In reality, though, Alan is less like Chris Pratt in Jurassic World and more like Chris Pratt in Parks & Rec. This makes sense since Seth Gordon, who conceived the story, worked on a few Parks & Rec episodes. Similar to James Caan in Misery, Loretta is tired of writing about Duke and decides to kill him off. Also mirroring Misery, Loretta is kidnapped by a reader who takes her books too seriously.
Daniel Radcliffe channels John Cleese in Rat Race as Abigail Fairfax, an eccentric billionaire who believes that Loretta’s latest book is the key to locating a lost city. Taken hostage, Abigail is forced to decipher an ancient message on a remote island. What’s worse, she has to do it while wearing a purple pantsuit and high heels. Although he can barely throw a punch, Alan sets out to rescue Loretta. Along the way, he gets some assistance from a more seasoned survivalist played by Brad Pitt.
Like his role in Burn After Reading, Pitt provides the film’s biggest laughs, complete with a hilariously abrupt exit. Although more of Pitt would’ve been welcome, a third wheel probably would’ve dragged the pacing. Bullock and Tatum are more than capable of carrying the picture. Both have superb comedic chemistry, the highlights being a wheelbarrow chase and an encounter with leaches. When the film falls back on the romantic angle, the two share a convincing opposites attract rapport. They aren’t alone either, as we get some memorable supporting performances from Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Loretta’s publicist, Patti Harrison as a bubbling social media manager, and Oscar Nuñez as a quirky pilot.
Radcliffe also gives one of his most entertaining performances, although his character starts to get a little grating during the climax when they try to make him more intimidating. The final act, in general, lacks much of the humor that made the first two halves so strong. It’d be one thing if they compensated with an inventive action set-piece, but the lost city itself is fairly routine. In classic adventure fashion, though, the journey is more important than the final destination. The Lost City is not only a journey well worth taking, but there’s potential for more adventures in the future. If they continue the Romancing the Stone trajectory, maybe the sequel will take them out of the jungle and down the Nile.