[Nightmarish Detour Review] THE LOST CITY
Courtesy Paramount Pictures

The world needs more silly movies. Sometimes we just need something mindless to escape for a bit. What better way to escape than with the long-forgotten romantic adventure genre? Well, with THE LOST CITY, you’ll get silliness and escapism in spades. While THE LOST CITY treads all-too-familiar ground story-wise, the comedic chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum is fun and exciting to watch. With the supporting cast being game for anything, it’ll be difficult for audiences not to be pulled along for the ride and find some much-needed levity.

THE LOST CITY stars Sandra Bullock (Bird Box) Channing Tatum (Magic Mike), Daniel Radcliffe (The Harry Potter film franchise), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite is my Name), Oscar Nuñez (The Proposal), Patti Harrison (Raya and the Last Dragon), and Bowen Yang (“Broad City”). The film is directed by Adam Nee and Aaron Nee.

As soon as THE LOST CITY premiered at SXSW, the comparisons between the film and its other action-romantic predecessors popped up. Those comparisons aren’t completely crazy. The tone and vibe of the film feel like something plucked out of the 80s-early 2000s when films such as Romancing the Stone and – heck – The Mummy reboot captured the definitive fun energy that solidified the tropes of the genre. The film doesn’t reinvent the wheel, with each beat being predictable, but there is an energy and reverence that sets THE LOST CITY apart from its familiar counterparts.

Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has been struggling to wrap up her popular romance-adventure series since the death of her husband. Despite the lack of motivation, she finishes the book in time to go forth on her book tour along with much-beloved cover model Alan (Channing Tatum), a man who has embraced the love and worship of Sage’s book fans and their embrace of his character, Dash. As the romance-adventure gods would have it, Loretta’s novel attracts the attention of a subtly egotistical billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe), who believes based on some symbols she used in her book that she can lead him to an ancient city’s lost treasure. Alan, of course with a crush the size of Texas, ventures forth to try to rescue her. Thrust into an adventure that mirrors her own novel, the two are left to try to survive the shenanigans and then some.

Daniel Radcliffe, Channing Tatum, and Sandra Bullock star in THE LOST CITY

THE LOST CITY takes Sandra Bullock back to her romantic-comedy roots and she is more than ready to tackle it. She fully leans into the physical comedy, contorting her body and face in all matter of positions. Her comedic chemistry with Channing Tatum and her timing shine here. It reminds us why we fell in love with her back in her Miss Congeniality days. Where she falters, though, is in the romantic chemistry with Tatum. Onscreen, they vibe more together as friends rather than would-be lovers, and it becomes all the more apparent once we get Bullock and Brad Pitt onscreen.

Channing Tatum reads as this generation’s adventure himbo ala Brendan Frasier in THE LOST CITY. Much like Bullock, Tatum has no problem leaning into the more embarrassing physical comedy moments onscreen. He bares all for us onscreen – literally and figuratively – and if he kept sticking to these himbo roles forever, I don’t think anyone would necessarily mind. His comedic timing, embrace of the silly, and his general likability make it all too easy for us to want the best for his character onscreen. As mentioned above, though, his romantic chemistry with Bullock was lacking. But the effort to push it there was there. It just didn’t connect as well as it could have.

Daniel Radcliffe swings wild with his role as the eccentric billionaire, Abigail. One of the biggest highlights of Radcliffe’s career has been seeing what roles he has selected post-Harry Potter. They are never dull and he always has fun in whatever he takes on. So, it comes as no surprise that he fully leans into the awkward eccentricities and privilege of Abigail who has the audacity to just kidnap people for his own purposes. Seeing his character gradually fall apart as things continue to not go his way is a real treat.

Personally, the unexpected star that leaves a memorable impression is Brad Pitt. Now, I actually had forgotten he was in this until I sat down to watch the film. Regardless, when he popped up on screen as the stoically badass Jack Trainer, I knew we were in for a surprise. Though his screentime is short, he completely nails the suave calm, ex-Navy Seal vibe of the character. Another shoutout needs to go to Da’Vine Joy Randolph for providing a necessary heart and well-roundedness to lift the character Beth off the page. Her interactions with Bullock, Tatum, and Oscar Nuñez highlight her own comedic prowess, and I can’t wait to see more from her in the future.

Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum star in THE LOST CITY

While the film’s story for the most part stays true to the genre’s beats, there are little nuggets plot point-wise that help THE LOST CITY set itself apart. Loretta’s roadblock that we’re introduced to early on is focused on the grief she still feels after the loss of her husband. It’s difficult to invest in the mundane or the things we enjoy when we’re grieving. That’s the power of grief. And, given the times in which we have all lived in these past couple of years, this particular point of Loretta’s character makes her all the more relatable.

Another moment hits harder, in part, because of the frequent discourse we see in both film and literary circles surrounding the romance genre. While Loretta admits to Alan that she only took up writing romance novels because no one would purchase her work on archaeology, he reminds her how her work has impacted others. He too once felt embarrassed to be associated with a romance cover, but when he realized how many had invested in the character of Dash and her work, he knew there was something special there. Considering how frequently the romance genre is dismissed and crapped on, this felt like a necessary nod to the success and necessity of the much-maligned genre. Seriously, creatives, embrace the romance genre. It can be fun and rewarding!

While THE LOST CITY feels familiar, maybe too familiar for some viewers, it feels much-needed in our stressful times. There’s a lightness and silliness that make the film almost akin to comfort food. The film is not afraid to be dumb. It’s lighthearted nourishment for the soul.

The age-old question is whether or not the film is good. That’s subjective. THE LOST CITY is entertaining, allowing us a moment to escape from reality in a way that most films nowadays don’t provide for us. With the help of its successfully comedic cast, all of whom are game to do whatever it takes to get the joke, and subtle plot-related elements that give it a little special seasoning to keep from being too stale, THE LOST CITY is pure adventure romantic-comedy comfort food for the soul. Can we get more films like this greenlit again? Please?

THE LOST CITY opens its doors in theaters tomorrow, March 25, 2022.

Sarah Musnicky
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