Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum try to Find Their way Through Adventure-Comedy
DIRECTED BY AARON NEE AND ADAM NEE/2022
If you’re the type of viewer who doesn’t care what critics say, and staunchly maintain that you like what you like no matter how vapid it’s deemed… well first of all, boy did you come to the place. And second of all, you just might want to book yourself a trip to the adventure-comedy that is The Lost City. It’s got Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum doing their respective things, with scene-stealing assists from Brad Pitt, Daniel Radcliffe, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Bowen Yang, Patti Harrison, and Oscar Nuñez all pop in for a few laughs, as well. It’s a readymade Girl’s Night Out centerpiece that would absolutely be helped along with a few big colorful drinks. If that sounds delightful to you, then by all means, go. Now.
Okay… Now with them gone, let’s have ourselves a review. Well publicized and well poised to be among the increasingly very rare non-I.P. box office hits (we shall see, but our advance screening sure drew a crowd), The Lost City is an energized and quippy half-spin on your Romancing the Stones and Allan Quatermains and whatnot. Sandra Bullock, refusing to show her age (she’s fifty-seven), plays a popular romance novelist who finds herself caught up in a jungle caper she might as well have written, but didn’t. Channing Tatum, happy to assume the position of eye candy, does everything he can with his role as Bullock’s lunkheaded cover model.
The first stop on a big-money publicity book tour for her latest page-turner is a disaster when Bullock sits ignored in her garish purple sequined jumpsuit (forced on her by her verbose manager) as her audience loses it for sexy Fabio-esque Tatum. (Yes, this movie, in the year 2022, is goofing on Fabio. Look him up if you’re not old enough to know him). It’s a dumb conceit that a romance novelist whose books are supposed to as big as Bullock’s would be so actively bypassed by her own enthusiastic fans, but welcome to lazy comedy. Furthermore, the fact that she’s ignored doesn’t really matter much in the developing story, but hey, it culminates in a big embarrassing moment, so there’s that.
What happens is, Bullock gets kidnapped by a well-funded eccentric international villain played by Daniel Radcliffe. This guy has a remote jungle encampment with burly armed thugs and everything. He’s correctly pegged her as an ace translator of ancient runes, which, it turns out, was her first-love skill that she’s parlayed into her writing career when the academic side of it didn’t work out.
Tatum, meanwhile, is just smart enough to figure out that Bullock’s in danger. He calls in Brad Pitt, the world’s most awesome tracking/rescue/professional mediation operative. Together, they go and find her, save her, and make their daring escape. End of Act I.
Pitt, cool as a cucumber and no doubt evoking even more phallic stirrings within this film’s target audience, is easily the best thing about The Lost City. So, it’s particularly disappointing when Bullock and Tatum are separated from him for the rest of the movie. It’s in the bits with Pitt that The Lost City dares to push outside its own safety zone with steely daring-do and mischievous violence. It does that twice, maybe three times.
At all too rare times, one gets the distinct impression that directors Aaron and Adam Nee had more impish, even twisted aspirations here than the film ended up allowing for. It’s too bad, as The Lost City spends most of its running time squarely in neutral. Between story and screenplay credits, there are no less than five people credited- and yes, it shows. There’s both too many ideas at play, and yet nothing new. In terms of humor, trademark mugging wins out over crafted gags. Bullock and Tatum spark a little bit with their familiar wit and spunk, but they could also do these characters in their sleep. (Thankfully, they are awake. But only because they are responsible professionals, understanding that it’s up to them to carry this glistening wet dog of a movie ashore). Really though, The Lost City is simply too busy ribbing itself to land any decent jokes. Unless you think Sandra Bullock in a glitter sequined jumpsuit is hilarious. (The movie itself does).
Generally free of “objectionable content”, aside from a couple lingering shots of Tatum’s bare butt (the gross, requisite post-river removal of leeches… apparently leeches with an aversion to glitter jumpsuits…?), The Lost City coasts straight down the middle, in full keeping with the generic nature of its title. (Where is this “city”, anyway? It’s more like a single lost cavern, honestly. Loos like the same one from Pirates of the Caribbean 4). What we’ve got here is a traditional “boys adventure” tale tweaked for the ladies, skewering old tropes like the threat of volcanic eruption and a tight squeeze through a wet tunnel into vague innuendos. It may look and sound like Indiana Jones, but at its core molecular level, the thrill-challenged and vapid The Lost City shares more DNA with something like Mamma Mia. It has its handful of moments, but older female audiences really deserve more than all this bothers to offer.
All that to say, The Lost City is almost literally nothing if not tailor made for the indiscriminate Girls Night Out, and on that level at least, it will seem like a good-enough time at the movies. Just don’t expect to recall much of it the next day. And it won’t be because of the big colorful drinks.