Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum headline Paramount’s jungle-set screwball adventure romance

The Lost City

Source: Paramount Pictures

‘The Lost City’

Dirs: Adam Nee, Aaron Nee. US. 2022. 112 mins.ara 

Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum have a great, flirtatious rapport in The Lost City, yet something is missing in this romantic-comedy action-adventure, which sports a funny premise but slipshod execution. Directors Adam and Aaron Nee’s tale of a romance novelist and her book-jacket cover model trapped in the jungle in search of fabled treasure relishes its silly exuberance and opposites-attract love story. Unfortunately, a lingering frustration hovers over the proceedings: the cast is so game, but the script is too inconsistent to deliver a steady stream of laughs. 

Bullock and Tatum are delightful company, if only The Lost City could find more for them to do

Opening in the US on March 25 and the UK three weeks later, this Paramount release boasts plenty of star power, including Daniel Radcliffe as the snarling villain and Brad Pitt in a cameo as a hunky former Navy SEAL. Similarities to Romancing The Stone will no doubt help lure viewers, and anyone seeking a fizzy good time may be happy to sit back and enjoy The Lost City’s cheeky irreverence. 

Bullock plays Loretta, a successful adventure-romance novelist who has had trouble finishing her most recent book since the death of her beloved archaeologist husband. Her much-anticipated new opus, The Lost City Of D, has gotten terrible reviews, but her loyal female readers don’t mind — especially when she is accompanied on her book tour by Alan (Tatum), the strapping, not-very-bright model who appears on the cover of her books as the fictional, shirtless hero Dash. But when she’s kidnapped by the evil tycoon Abigail (Radcliffe), who believes that one of her novels holds the key to tracking down a priceless treasure known as the Crown of Fire, Alan becomes determined to rescue her. 

Director brothers Adam and Aaron Nee (Band Of Robbers) have crafted an appealingly broad comedy in which uptight Loretta and dimwitted Alan will butt heads while trying to stay alive, eventually falling in love. That narrative predictability is meant to be part of the charm — it’s pleasing to watch attractive, engaging stars make eyes at one another — and sporadically the screenplay (credited to four writers, including the Nee siblings) gives the actors room to develop a fire-and-ice chemistry. (The more Alan tries to prove to Loretta that he’s not just a pretty face, the more he screws things up with his bad ideas.)  

But The Lost City too often strains for laughs, failing to come up with inspired set pieces or really develop the bond between these two characters. Pitt’s role as the ultra-macho Jack, hired because of his expertise in high-stakes hostage extraction, is very amusing, but the character isn’t on screen for very long. As for Radcliffe,  he has shown a knack for embracing eccentric characters since leaving Harry Potter behind, but Abigail is a pretty drab villain. The actor tries to respond by going over the top, but the preformence is unconvincing. Even Da’Vine Joy Randolph, superb in Dolemite Is My Name, struggles to bring much humour to the role of Loretta’s highly-strung publicist Beth, who is forced to save her client herself after all other options have been exhausted.  

Bullock has some nice moments as the prideful Loretta, who never wanted to be something as lowly as a romance novelist, and she’s constantly funny decked out in a tacky sequinned fuchsia jumpsuit which Beth made her wear for the book tour to give her more pizzazz. (Turns out, though, it’s not a great wardrobe for running around in the jungle.) And Tatum, who has frequently played men who aren’t smart but have good hearts, does what he can with Alan, who is genuinely hurt that Loretta thinks so little of him. As they start to spend time together under duress, the characters warm to one another, but rarely is there the sort of spark that tempts audiences to forgive a film’s weaknesses simply because the central couple is so alluring. 

That said, there is one memorable scene near the end in which Loretta and Alan simply dance together, and it’s here that Bullock’s buoyancy and Tatum’s graceful moves remind us why they’re such likeable stars. This is also one of the rare moments in which The Lost City isn’t bogged down in plot complications or subpar one-liners. As for the film’s action-adventure elements, the journey to find the Crown of Fire lacks much sense of wonder or excitement, and an attempt to inject a little poignancy near the conclusion of their search ends up feeling forced. Bullock and Tatum are delightful company, if only The Lost City could find more for them to do.

Production companies: Fortis Films, 3dot Productions, Exhibit A  

Worldwide distribution: Paramount Pictures

Producers: Liza Chasin, Sandra Bullock, Seth Gordon 

Screenplay: Oren Uziel and Dana Fox and Adam Nee & Aaron Nee, story by Seth Gordon  

Production design: Jim Bissell

Editing: Craig Alpert 

Cinematography: Jonathan Sela

Music: Pinar Toprak

Main cast: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Brad Pitt