MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Action-Adventure Comedy/Stars: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison, Oscar Nuñez, Brad Pitt, Raymond Lee, Bowen Yang, Stephen Lang/Runtime: 112 minutes
I’m going to be honest with you dear reader: I absolutely and completely and utterly love with a passion the 1984 film Romancing the Stone (shocking I know). Indeed not only are the action beats thrilling, the romance organic if not wonderfully cheesy and cliché, and the directing from Robert Zemeckis absolutely on-point, but the banter and performances from Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner (to say nothing of Danny DeVito’s memorable supporting turn) still hold up phenomenally well. As a result, you can sure imagine how unsure I was when I first saw the trailer for the slice of cinema I am reviewing today, 2022’s The Lost City. I mean yeah I guess I like Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum (when he’s in something like 21 Jump Street or Foxcatcher and NOT Magic Mike), and Daniel Radcliffe. I guess I want to see this seemingly smallish role played with bravado by Brad Pitt. I guess this looks somewhat entertaining. At the same time though why in the world does this slice of cinema look like it’s ripping off one of my favorite mainstream 80s movies?! Thus, despite this very serious reservation in my mind, I decided to give this slice of cinema a fair chance and go see it in theaters. Suffice it to say I am thankful I did. No this slice of cinema is not even close to the level of engaging that Romancing the Stone was and the action beats do feel rather typical and run of the mill, but at the same time this is actually not that bad thanks in large part to the fact that this slice of cinema’s cast is absolutely engaging and it is fairly enjoyable when all is said and done. As a result this slice of cinema might not be perfect, but at the same time it is a fun cinematic ride and sometimes that’s honestly really all you need for a film especially one such as this.
The plot is as follows: The Lost City gets its rollicking yarn underway as we see that, in the tragic aftermath of her beloved archaeologist hubby’s untimely passing, a skilled writer of a series of erotic Indiana Jones-style romance adventure novels by the name of Loretta Sage has found it increasingly difficult to both live life and just find a degree of passion to what she writes about. As such we see that, due to subtle pressure being placed on her by her publisher/ surrogate older sister-figure Beth Hatten to conclude the latest entry in the saga due to putting down quite a pretty penny on an extravagant book tour, we see our intrepid heroine swiftly wrap the story up with the intent to make this latest installment the last. Of course we soon see that, once on the tour, she is paired up with the seemingly airhead cover model who is the face that her legions of fans have come to associate with her iconic male lead character of Dash McMahon. Of course things soon go from bad to worse when, whilst in the middle of a break from the press circuit, a group of mercenaries snatch our heroine and take her to their boss, a weird slightly dotty rich kid tycoon by the name of Abigail Fairfax who quickly jets her off to a volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic since he feels that she might actually be able to help him acquire an actual treasure that is brought up in her latest book. Of course, we soon see that not far behind is Loretta’s cover model who witnessed her being taken and is now in hot pursuit. Yet even though we see him shortly acquire the aid of a ex-SEAL he met at a mediation session, we soon see that the rescue attempt quickly goes south thus leaving our heroine and her attempted rescuer lost in the jungle and engaged in a desperate battle against time, the jungle elements, and the heavily armed mercenaries hunting them in order to not only survive, but find the mythical treasure before Fairfax does.
Now as I stated before dear reader the lovely little trek/treasure hunt that our main characters take in part that weaves its way through the jungle does owe quite a bit to the iconic slice of cinema known as Romancing the Stone. Thankfully for the present day movie goer, this slice of cinema wisely and appreciatively makes the choice to take a lot of the gender clichés that are present in Stone and snip them away. Perhaps the best example of this in terms of content within the film itself is that there is a scene in this that is a riff on Stone’s iconic waterfall moment, but in this film it’s Tatum who is being sexualized (much to the happiness of his female fan base I am sure). This elimination of the gender politics is also very much apparent in terms of the characterization of our two main characters. By that I mean whilst Michael Douglas in Stone was a “man’s man” through and through, Channing Tatum in this is a very sensitive and down to Earth type who is very much in synch with his feelings. Along with that we see that whereas Kathleen Turner’s character was the clichéd lonely grumpy damsel in distress, Bullock in this isn’t grumpy; rather, she is just plain and simply a brokenhearted woman who is lost because she doesn’t know how to live her life without the person she loved more than anything else in the world. Indeed it is these very subtle twists in terms of characterization that do a wonderful job of making this updating of a classic 80s film one that is just as progressive as it is engaging and enjoyable. Now it is also worth pointing out that whilst the action beats and the physical comedy in this slice of cinema are very well thought-out, I feel that they are hampered by the fact that the way that they are shot really does tragically feel run of the mill. Thankfully balancing that out is the fact that this slice of cinema was shot in the jungles of the Dominican Republic and as a result we see that the location exudes a beauty that really does shine through and really helps strengthen the generic shooting of the action in this. Finally, I also think credit should be given to the brilliant costume designer Marlene Stewart for coming up with Bullock’s delightfully absurd jumpsuit. A piece of attire that not only is a wonderful contrast to the jungle locale, but is also very much on par with Claire Dearing traversing the jungle in heels in Jurassic World as one of the most wonderfully illogical costume choices in a slice of cinema that I have seen in a while.
Ultimately though if you want the big thing that really distinguishes this slice of cinema from a lot of other movies like it, it would have to be in the wonderful work done by this slice of cinema’s cast. This starts with screen icon Sandra Bullock who, in the role of Loretta Sage, makes a wonderful homecoming of sorts to the kind of character that made her a star to begin with. Indeed Loretta is a tough and individualistic female who can’t for the life of her see why the various successes she has achieved even care anymore. Not only that, but here is a woman who is so lost in her own grief for the only man she ever cared about that her heart just isn’t in coming up with anymore new adventures for Dash. Rather, she would like to be taken seriously as a writer instead of dressed up in an over the top violet jumpsuit and sent out to parade about for all of her doting fan base. Yes I know this might not exactly seem like the most “fun” character to follow in a slice of cinema like this, but as portrayed by Bullock the character is still one worth following even when she is at her absolute meanest. Thus when you also factor in both Bullock’s nuanced delivery as well as her incredibly natural collection of gestures which are all just as hilarious, there is really no doubt as to who the protagonist of this distinct narrative really is by the end of it. Now as the Yang to her Yin, we get wonderful work from Channing Tatum who has really become an expert at playing characters who aren’t exactly brilliant, but who are still delightful enough that you can’t help, but care about them all the same. Now for the first half of this slice of cinema, it really does seem like Tatum is giving us a distinct spin on the role of Jenko from 21 and 22 Jump Street. Thankfully, this slice of cinema then makes the choice in the back 9 as it were to really flesh out the character and thus give Tatum a lot more in the way of characterization opportunities. As a result, Tatum is a true delight in this and if you are amongst that group of people who love seeing this man without his shirt, whenever he pulls some Magic Mike-style dance moves, or both then congrats. Without going into spoilers, you will most assuredly be getting both of those things in this slice of cinema. You’re welcome. Now I know that there will most likely never be a day where Daniel Radcliffe is not tied to his iconic portrayal of a certain British boy wizard, but even with that in mind can we just take a minute to appreciate how hard he has tried to shed that image with a lot of his roles as an adult? Indeed if you haven’t guessed it based off that comment, I really dug Radcliffe as the villain in this slice of cinema. Indeed in many respects, I have no doubt that the character of Fairfax is a typical villain in terms of how he is written, but with Radcliffe bringing him to life on screen we get a villain that is yes quite masochist in many respects, but at least to some degree he’s more polite about the whole kidnapping a woman and forcing her to aid him in a seemingly insane scheme angle than most antagonists in this subgenre usually are. Suffice it to say that it’s another wonderful performance from an actor who yes I enjoyed as his trademark character when he was a kid, but who I also really appreciate what he has brought to the silver screen as an adult as well. In supporting roles, this slice of cinema may have some terrific work from a game collection of talent, but there is one that deserves a wee bit more attention than the rest. That of course would be Brad Pitt who is so fantastic in the role of Jack Trainer that I am just going to start the petition here to give this character his own movie. Indeed from his perfect hair, his fists making contact with bad guys at just the right moment, and a consistently relaxed look that just seeing it makes you aware that this man has more wisdom than some of us will ever acquire this is a guy who makes all the rest of us men feel just a teeny tiny bit less confident about ourselves whenever he makes his way into a room, but jokes aside is also a terrific support performance from a truly iconic actor as well. Indeed every minute he is on screen he is an absolute joy and then some.
All in all I won’t lie to you dear reader whilst the slice of cinema that is The Lost City might give off the vibe of being something you have seen before, if not quite a few other things dependent of course on how many movies you have seen just like this, this is a rare occasion where this is not something I will judge this slice of cinema too harshly for. Indeed more than anything else I feel that this loving familiarity is something that we as movie goers really do need in the stress-inducing and just generally chaotic world around us. I mean there is just a goofiness and vibrancy to this slice of cinema that just really helps to make it a cinematic equivalent to something like a guilty pleasure food that yes it might not give you your daily vitamin A or, dare I say it, D, but every once in a while still proves to be delightful for the soul even whilst making you watch your calories for a week after. Of course, that’s all well and good, but I am sure that what you are ultimately wondering is if this cinematic cuisine is any good or if you should prepare yourself for a serious case of cinematic indigestion. Well while the idea of a “good film” is one that is entirely subjective, I can safely say that for me The Lost City is not only a wonderfully entertaining slice of cinema, but one that permits us to take a much-needed tropical vacation from the world around us in a manner that a lot of slices of cinema aren’t able to. Thus with the aid of its wonderfully funny cast of performers who each and every one of are all down to engage in whatever shenanigans necessary to help this film’s collection of jokes land to say nothing of intricate narrative components that help to diversify this slice of cinema from the others like it and thus help keep it fresh instead of a mere retread of something like Romancing the Stone from the 80s, The Lost City is a funny and engaging slice of cinema from beginning to end that you should definitely take a couple of hours of your life to sit down and watch. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself smiling when you do. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Lost City “2022” a solid 3.5 out of 5.