The Lost City, 2022.
Directed by Aaron Nee and Adam Nee
Starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Brad Pitt, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison, Oscar Nunez, Raymond Lee, Thomas Forbes-Johnson, and Héctor Aníbal.
A reclusive romance novelist on a book tour with her cover model gets swept up in a kidnapping attempt that lands them both in a cutthroat jungle adventure.
Fictional celebrated author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is struggling to finish the latest work in her series of smutty adventure novels. She also envisions herself as the hero, as The Lost City writers and directors Aaron and Adam Nee (this serving as their sophomore feature following the modern-day Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn reimagining Band of Robbers that is worth seeking out) briefly depict in a visually creative sequence where characters and objects appear and disappear off the screen as Loretta types and deletes. One of those characters happens to be her hunky sidekick Dash (Channing Tatum, rocking a ridiculous Fabio hairpiece), who seems to be the real attraction of the stories nowadays given Loretta’s waining effort. Doubly so, considering that Dash exists in real life as Adam, a model that lucked into serving as a cover boy for the books and subsequent media tours, generally ending up hounded by thirsty fans. Soon, it’s made clear that Loretta’s husband died recently, explaining her lack of enthusiasm for writing the next novel, all the way to the point of an ending where the characters give up on searching for a lost treasure mid-quest.
Following some disastrous publicity where Alan fails to make a positive impression on Loretta (she’s a sapiosexual, and he, good intentions be damned, is all brawn and no brains), the latter finds herself walking into a kidnapping. The goons bring Loretta to Fairfax (a villainous Daniel Radcliffe who seems to be attempting a performance blending unhinged and quirkiness, never really come across as an antagonist worth caring about), a son of a billionaire jealous that the empire is being handed to his younger brother on a silver platter, that believes there is some truth to the clues and treasure referenced in the latest novel. This is because Loretta and her husband also used to decode ancient languages and study such myths.
As such, Alan sees an opportunity to prove himself and make a rescue. The only problem is that he’s not a fighter, either. This results in the dimwitted secret admirer contracting an ex-military extractor played by Brad Pitt in a cameo role that is easily the movie’s highlight. There’s definitely something amusing about watching the muscular Channing Tatum be useless, constantly getting in the way of this trained and hardened but dorky bearded soldier as he dispatches of henchmen. Likewise, there is plenty of energy and playful humor to The Lost City‘s first act.
However, the movie hits a brick wall, hitting that brick wall hard. Admittedly, it is nice that The Lost City is aware that it’s not a particularly unique or original adventure and instead focuses on the mismatched central duo. But that aspect is also mostly generic and formulaic, with Loretta realizing that there is more to Alan than his physical stature and that he can put his mind to decent use in survivalist and resourceful ways. It also doesn’t help that Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum don’t generate much chemistry. They primarily play variations of the same character they always play, only without ever clicking into a rhythm and bouncing off one another to give the dialogue some spark. Whenever they aren’t on screen, a genuinely useless subplot follows Loretta’s manager Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) on a listless rescue endeavor of her own, functioning as yet another Black supporting friend character in movies with nothing to do besides look for the hero in danger.
It is pleasant that Alan doesn’t take over as the hero per se. There’s a late joke suggesting that Alan is the damsel in distress here, which is fitting since the movie’s funniest jokes are pointing out and riffing on gender dynamics. Again, there’s also nothing suspenseful or even eventful regarding the treasure and its mysteries. One of Fairfax’s goons also mentions how the search for this titular lost city of D is disrespectful to his heritage, only to do nothing with that plot thread even when the story makes its way to a surrounding town. The story is only concerned with Loretta and Alan growing to like one another in a boring fashion and with compliments that go nowhere. He tells her not to minimize her writing by calling schlock, which is interesting, except the script (courtesy of four writers, including the directors, from a story by Seth Gordon) rarely explores the correlation between authorship and adventure.
Going back to that first scene of a dynamically changing setting and the world as a creator writes, that’s where the imagination is. Aaron and Adam Nee don’t have the confidence to build a story around their one inventive idea, settling for an assortment of romantic comedy clichés set inside a lifeless treasure hunt. The Lost City also basically falls into a pit of molasses once its electrifying cameo exits the story, sinking and sinking until one drowns in all the excess tropes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com