Viewers may find it impossible to resist smiling at The Lost City. But it’s definitely possible to not laugh during the film’s near two-hour romp.
Romantic comedies are starting to warm up in theatres again. The Lost City makes a bold leap over an appropriate home on Netflix. The film does whatever it can to collect as many laughs as possible in one big auditorium. Even if it boils down to some juvenile one-liners better delivered by intoxicated uncles at a function.
But that’s a senseless humour The Lost City plays with so well. Because directors Adam and Aaron Nee don’t take the adventure too seriously. Viewers will keep their eyes peeled for a healthy serving of cartoonish action that scratches the surface of tomb raiding. Ears might catch some timely satire of bitcoin and the wellness industry. Other moments play on the occasional gags of phrasing. Innuendos might win over chunks of viewers at a time. While there’s little to remember apart from a strong two-lead chemistry.
Adventure does stay consistent in its lush setting. The Lost City packs enough style to make its exploration work. There are even more shots of exploring jungles, scaling terrain, and hiding in trees than Uncharted. But it’s far from an engaging treasure hunt without world-building. Heck, The Lost City barely passes as an adventure film thanks to a decent amount of action. But it refuses to go all-in in order for The Lost City to preserve that essence of a romantic getaway. The film ironically fits the genre it tries to mock, even if The Lost City relies on innuendos to bloat the runtime.
The Lost City hits the ground running over a flat foundation of jokes. The film turns its camera on Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock), a successful author of romance novels. Sage’s books seduce readers with a serotonin-filled escape. Clichés turn Sage into a reluctant hero for readers, craving more out of its made-up hero. Celebrated cover model Alan Caprison plays the semi-fictional Dash McMahon (Channing Tatum) and steals the spotlight, much to Sage’s disappointment over her career.
“There are even more shots of exploring jungles, scaling terrain, and hiding in trees than Uncharted.”
The premise of jaded authors isn’t a new concept for romantic comedies like Love, Actually, Long Shot, Hitch, or How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Bullock has her turn to find her sense of adventure, but the cliché is a tiring one for The Lost City. For what it’s worth, the film manages to develop Sage’s frustrations enough for viewers to understand. While the handsome Dash starts to crack with empathy under his porcelain pecs and over-the-top introduction.
Sage’s prayers are answered in all the wrong ways. Sage is kidnapped by suave and impatient billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe). With barely any context, Sage’s latest read, The Lost City of D, becomes Fairfax’s guide to finding a fabled crown. Respectably, it’s a quick pivot which literally throws The Lost City into adventure. Of course, Alan decides to embrace his Dash role by rescuing Sage from her kidnappers. Brad Pitt injects some extra star power into The Lost City as Jack Trainer. Ahead of Bullet Train, he’s still digging up his action-comedy from Mr. And Mrs. Smith. He grabs the room with a collected demeanour, then surprises viewers with an over-the-top archetype of a soldier-turned-spy-turned-self defence trainer. It’s a shame The Lost City doesn’t go all-in on a hilarious pissing contest between Pitt and Tatum along their rescue mission.
Despite Bullock’s efforts, this is very much a Channing Tatum film. Fans who loved his short, energetic cameo in Free Guy will get that in full force, complete with his physical humour, immaturity under pressure, and self-aware comebacks. The Lost City rightfully uses Alan/Dash for the bulk of its action, while Tatum doesn’t even hesitate to add shock value with a hard-to-miss butt joke. But the easiest of viewers will find most of their laughs through Dash’s bumbling, but thoughtful, exchanges with Sage. Tatum gets credit for doing more of what he did in the 21 Jump Street films. It’s enough to keep The Lost City consistently fun.
“The Lost City doesn’t quite find serenity as a rom-com and action-adventure film packed into one.”
The Lost City does little to rekindle Sage’s growth. There are plenty of wasted opportunities in showing flashbacks for both leads. The film builds its relationship through Sage reacting to Dash’s logic—something that quickly gets old after the first dozen banters. The directors find plenty of ways to bounce jokes off Bullock and Tatum, but more substance comes from The Lost City’s romantic nature. Viewers get to see a convincing case of love under circumstances. Tatum is at his best when he gets serious, while leveraging it to get Bullock’s character out of her comfort zone. Like her books, she starts to see the fake Dash materialize in Alan over time. It’s a predictable angle viewers will see miles away. But like romance novels, audiences will be satisfied to see it played out.
I’ll level with audiences who will enjoy The Lost City more by embracing its chaos. There’s absolutely no logic between Fairfax and Sage as intended. I’ll admire Daniel Radcliffe’s energetic delivery of rich-person jokes. It doesn’t help that he’s an undeveloped character who adds little stake to Dash’s rescue mission, other than the fact The Lost City needed an unimposing antagonist. The film’s real show stealer comes from Beth Hatten (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), joining Sage’s rescue as her publicist. I was close to cracking up at Beth’s own journey filled with inconveniences. Her reactions to weird pilot Oscar (Oscar Nunez) are priceless. While Beth single-handedly carries The Lost City as it takes a break from the exploring.
The Lost City doesn’t quite find serenity as a rom-com and action-adventure film packed into one. Viewers are constantly torn between reading two separate scripts. It’s harder for Sage to fall in love with Dash. Opportunities to stop and smell the roses are interrupted by a forced car fight, Radcliffe’s screen-time, or an entendre. The film even takes a few minutes to literally take the adventure and setting away. Instead, it subjects viewers through a dance sequence which brings our leads up close and personal. I can’t quite put my thumb on what makes The Lost City so uneven, only because its directors are throwing one mind-numbingly dry joke after another visual gag. It’s apparent in action sequences that end with Bullock and Tatum’s intentionally awkward play-by-play reactions.
I can’t fault The Lost City for fitting its style of a cheesy romantic adventure novel in the making. This was the intended effect that is laughable at first, only for viewers around me to burst out at some more graphic humour. Save for Beth/Oscar’s scenes, where the script actually starts to rely on strong exchanges over visual gags, viewers will be divided between relishing in every unfiltered bit The Lost City has to offer, or scrolling past the film when it eventually hits a streaming platform.