THE LOST CITY (2022) – Review – We Are Movie Geeks


THE LOST CITY (2022) – Review

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Hey film fans, since traveling is still a bit iffy (some health issues) and pricey (oy, the pump costs) how about a cinematic getaway to a faraway exotic island? Not tempting enough? Well, how about hanging out with a trio of your favorite movie stars (and I do mean stars…real “A-listers”)? Indeed this marks the big-screen return of a favorite leading lady who has been absent for four long years. And she shares scenes with not one, but two Hollywood “hunks”. Yes, romance, comedy (with a touch of satire), and a bit of danger are on the itinerary when you grab a (theatre) ticket and the multiplex whisks you away to THE LOST CITY.

Things are looking steamy and a touch scary for the duo at the heart of the story when the Paramount logo fades away. Oops, it’s all in the head of popular romance novelist Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) as she battles writer’s block in the comfort of her cozy home. Perhaps she’s a tad too comfortable as she’s become somewhat reclusive since the passing of her hubby. And when that newest work, “The Lost City of D”, is finished she finds that her popularity may be waning…a bit. That’s why her BFF and publicist Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) convinces her to kick off her promotional tour for the book with a personal appearance at a big romance novel convention. And to Loretta’s annoyance, she must share the stage (at a fan Q & A) with the cover model for her paperbacks, the gorgeous but dim Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), who is reprising his “role” as the ongoing series hero “Dash” McMahon. After the disastrous event, things go from bad to worse as Loretta is spirited away by a couple of burly goons as Alan watches helplessly. Said thugs transport Loretta to their boss, eccentric media millionaire Abigail (yup) Fairfax (Danielle Radcliff) who believes that she can help him locate the actual “crown of fire” in Calloman’s Tomb on a remote Atlantic island. Since the tomb may be destroyed by a nearby active volcano, he ignores her pleas to be released and chloroforms her, and the group jets off to that exotic locale. Ah, but team Sage is on the case. Alan contacts an ex-military man he met at a meditation seminar, Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt), and flies away to join him for her rescue. But can the two of them save Loretta from Fairfax’s legion of henchmen while they’re outrunning lava?

So, Ms. B hasn’t graced the big screen since 2018’s OCEAN’S EIGHT? And grace is the right word since she glides through this frothy romp with the assured stride of the gifted icons of the golden age. Her lengthy film career is certainly no fluke, as she brings all of her arsenal (comedy, tragedy, action, romance) to the role of the often awkward writer. Loretta uses her solitude as a protective “bubble” to ward off anything or anyone that may add to her festering sorrow. When she begrudgingly re-enters “the world” Bullock exercises her crackling comic timing as Loretta uses her snark as rapidly-fired needle “pinpricks”. Coupled with her physical comedy skills, and abetted with her gaudy “sparkly” sequined pantsuit, she’s an almost “alien” outcast in the jungle. But Bullock shows us the change in Sage as the central mystery resonates with her which prompts her to take a chance on someone again. And that’s the surprising Tatum as Alan, who begins as a pretty boy cartoon, the vain vapid gorgeous dimwit (do they still say “him-bo”) strutting about with flowing fake blond locks and “puffy shirts open to the navel. He reminds us of his great comedy “chops’ we enjoyed so much in 21 JUMP STREET, its sequel, and the recent DOG (probably still playing nearby), but he also displays a real vulnerability as Alan acts on his feelings for his “book boss lady”, aching to be the hero she’s fashioned around him. But he’s really not “that guy” as he also has a flair for the slapstick as “action Alan” becomes a klutzy whirlwind of limbs. Which is a great contrast to the “uber-cool alpha-dog” that is Pitt’s Trainer who’s the “real deal” and almost effortlessly uses Alan’s missed kicks and swings to his advantage while trying to temper his remarks (“Alan, that’s a good effort, but you should’ve stayed in the car”).

As for the support team to the “titanic trio”, a good mix of comic actors has been gathered. Well, the villain may be best known for a heroic magical hero icon, Radcliffe seems to be having lots of fun shattering his image as the nefarious Fairfax the “poster child” for the angry sibling, a scheming brat who wants what he deserves right this second (think Veruca Salt with lots of backup and firepower). Heading the “good guy” sidekicks is Randolph (so great as Lady Reed in DOLEMITE IS MY NAME) as the tightly wound, stressed but still in control Beth, whose business ambitions take a backseat to her affection for her “superstar scribe”. Plus she’s a great “reactor tempering her frustration at dealing with a couple of “oddballs”, namely Patti Harrison as the “always on her cellphone” social media consultant (she can’t speak without uttering several “hashtags”) and Oscar Nunez (from TV’s “The Office”) as goofy cargo plane pilot Oscar who thinks that he can charm her into his cockpit (wink wink). And SNL gem Bowen Yang has a nice bit as the book conference’s overly caffeinated host of the Q & A debacle.

The directors calling the shots in this comedy caper are a fairly new team, the Nee (not the Knights who say) brothers Adam and Aaron, their third feature after THE LAST ROMANTIC and BAND OF ROBBERS (a SLIFF flick). And they do a terrific job balancing the character comedy with the more slapstick sequences along with the frantic action set pieces and the often nail-biting escapes and scrapes. And though a lot of its basic premise owes much to 1984’s ROMANCING THE STONE (a nice homage is the event’s banner that proclaims “Romancing the Book”), the screenplay by the Nees with Oren Uziel and Dana Fox from a Seth Gordon story has plenty of sharp satirical stabs at those “bodice-ripper” books and their over-heated fanbase in addition to the spirited interplay between Loretta and Alan. Unfortunately, the film does succumb to the dreaded comedy film “lull” a bit past the one-hour mark as the duo connects on the dance floor (it needs a big trim from the editors). And the big finale feels a tad rushed with everything quickly “lining up in place”. But these are somewhat minor quibbles against the breath-taking Dominican Republic location work and the inspired pairing of Bullock and Tatum, briefly aided by a winking Pitt. So if you’re really needing a bit of swooning star escapism find your way (no tattered old maps needed) to THE LOST CITY.

3.5 Out of 4

THE LOST CITY opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, March 25, 2022

Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.