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Movie review: 'The Lost City' loses its way but not its charm

1/5
Movie review: 'The Lost City' loses its way but not its charm
Loretta (Sandra Bullock) and Alan (Channing Tatum) look for "The Lost City." Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

LOS ANGELES, March 18 (UPI) -- The Lost City, opening May 25 in theaters, can't measure up to its aspirations of Indiana Jones or Romancing the Stone. However, other such attempts like Fool's Gold or Six Days Seven Nights failed much harder, so "good enough" might be enough for The Lost City.

Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a romance novelist. Alan (Channing Tatum) is the cover model for her hero Dash.

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Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) kidnaps Loretta from her book tour because her late archeologist husband was studying the real Lost City of D. Fairfax hopes Loretta can translate the ancient language and help him find hidden treasures.

Alan takes it upon himself to rescue Loretta, hiring Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) for the mission. Jack is a capable action hero but the trio get separated, leaving Loretta and Alan to fend for themselves, with Fairfax's men in pursuit.

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The Lost City establishes a sound comedy dynamic between Loretta and Alan. Alan desperately wants to be the hero Loretta writes about but he's incompetent.

Loretta is the practical one who doesn't want an adventure at all. The more they survive, the more overwhelmed they become by the violence they commit.

Tatum is game to play up Alan's most pathetic qualities, be it mansplaining about the book he didn't write or mugging in panic during his obligatory shirtless scene. Yet he unearths genuinely positive qualities in alan.

Alan does prove himself endearing in a crisis. He thinks about providing food and water for Loretta, and her comfort walking through the jungle in high heels.

When the characters compare the danger they're in to other movies, that sort of banter was done better in Spy. The Lost City lacks the conviction in its adventure story to pull off self-referential humor.

The "Face/Off machine" joke in Spy works because the Jason Statham character is utterly committed to believing in action movies. When Loretta worries she's being "Taken" it just feels like the directors feeding Bullock alternate lines in an extended improv run.

It is a shame Pitt is only there for one comic sequence as he is the highlight of the movie. Jack is a satire of action heroes who still kicks butt in action scenes.

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Even at the best of times, The Lost City feels cobbled together. Much of the dialogue was obviously dubbed over shots where Bullock and Tatum are not facing the camera.

Some of those lines are funny enough to forgive but at one point they are literally explaining a daring escape as they enact it. A mid credits tag feels blatantly like a reshoot ordered by negative test screenings.

On the plus side, the mythology of the Lost City of D does feel like a plausible history. They did film in the Dominican Republic, so it doesn't feel like green screen until they get to the final act.

Those seams don't ruin the fun, but prevent The Lost City from becoming a classic. While not a return to the action form of Speed or Demolition Man for Bullock, The Lost City is an amusing lark.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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