By: Jolie Featherstone
Aaron and Adam Nee’s The Lost City is modern-day swashbuckler a la Romancing the Stone that delivers a delightful blend of adventure, comedy, and romance to the silver screen.
Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant academic-turned-romance novelist. She’s written a series of novels that follow a plucky heroine as she traverses tropical locales in search of ancient treasure – and there’s a handsome male love interest too, of course. Fans of the series are equally obsessed with Fabio-esque cover model, Alan (Channing Tatum), who graces the cover of Loretta’s novels. Behind the bestsellers and the sparkly jumpsuits, Loretta is a young widow quietly grieving her beloved husband.
While on tour promoting her latest novel with Alan (much to her chagrin), Loretta is kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who hopes that she will lead him to the treasure of the lost city featured in her recent novel. Alan sets off to rescue her, desperate to prove to Loretta (and himself) that he can be a hero in real life and not just on the cover of a book. Plunged into the lush yet dangerous depths of the rainforest, this dynamic duo have to work together to survive the wilds and protect the ancient treasure from falling into the wrong hands.
A great swashbuckler is made with precise measurements of wonder, tension, humour, and, of course, romance. Many of the recent iterations of the swashbuckler have been geared towards families; think the recent Jumanji movies and Disney’s Jungle Cruise. Although lots of fun, those examples were made with the intention to be palatable for kids, teens, and adults. It feels as if there’s been a dearth of films in this genre geared specifically towards adults as of late. The 1980s and 1990s provided a wider array of these adventure-comedy or adventure-romance films geared to various age groups: kids, teens, and the adults-only date night. That’s not to say that films of the latter were gratuitous in their depictions of sexuality or violence. It was simply a shift in perspective; these were made by adults for adults. The Lost City presents a refreshed version of those films. It brings the genre into the 2020s and features much more equitable representation than its earlier counterparts. The Lost City would have been the perfect Valentine’s Day movie. With plenty of eye candy and laughs, it’s a fun film for both romantic and platonic movie dates.
Bullock is one of Hollywood’s most stable and solid stars. She earned her title as America’s Sweetheart in the 1990s and hasn’t let up since. Bullock can carry a rom-com or an action movie, and she’s not afraid to play with physical comedy. From falling flat on her face in Miss Congeniality to navigating the delicate dance of sitting on a stool while in a skin-tight jumpsuit in The Lost City (funny because it’s accurate), Bullock is the definition of a larger-than-life star that we also feel as if we can relate to. Despite meeting the criteria of North America’s incredibly limited beauty standards, she draws in audiences with a grounded quality; a slight vulnerability. Loretta Sage is a woman who has hidden away from the world after the death of her husband. Bullock brings a sensitivity and weariness to the role. When pulled out of her quiet life and forced to trek through the wilderness, Loretta digs deep and reclaims her spirit. There’s never a doubt in our mind that she is the hero, even when she may not believe it herself.
Channing Tatum’s Alan turns the typical leading man on his buzzed head. Alan is tall, buff, and a confident public speaker. But put him in the middle of a rainforest and he’s just as clueless as anyone. We know Tatum as a skilled dancer from Step Up and Magic Mike XXL. The fact that Tatum’s physical prowess is so familiar to us serves to highlight the contrast we see on screen with Alan’s adorably bumbling ways. Tatum’s turn in The Lost City is reminiscent of Chris Hemsworth’s turn as Kevin in Ghostbusters (2016). Hemsworth, like Tatum, could rest on his laurels and play a typical straight man for the entirety of his career. They’ve both demonstrated physical endurance in their film roles. Now, they’ve both used their appearance and physical chops to deliver delightfully surprising comedic interpretations of their characters. Indeed, Thor could be a completely 2-D, one-note typical hero. Instead, Hemsworth gives the character texture. In The Lost City, Tatum brings a sweet humility to Alan as we watch him go from the ultimate heartthrob to the well-meaning but in-way-over-his-head rescuer who ultimately finds self-acceptance and true passion.
Daniel Radcliffe has made a career playing fascinating and extremely diverse characters since his turn as the principled and impassioned hero Harry Potter. Following his filmography is incredibly gratifying. It’s a treat that we get to watch an actor choose unique and mind-bending characters. His turn in The Lost City sees him stepping into the tailored suit of a bratty, entitled villain. I wish we got to have a bit more time with him really digging into the meat of this villain, but he’s a pleasure to watch on screen all the same.
Some of the editing is a bit protracted which, a few times in the beginning, throws off some of the comedic beats. However, once the movie gets into its flow, it becomes a proper “movie night” selection: beautiful locales, lots of laughs, sultry scenes, and a wonderful cast. I left the movie with a genuine smile on my face. Fun fact: it has the most memorable leech scene since Stand By Me (1986)!
Dana Fox is one of the co-writers of the film. Fox has penned some of the most crowd-pleasing blockbusters in recent years: Couples Retreat (2009), Cruella (2021). She’s also brought a clever voice to the rom-com genre: How to Be Single (2016), Isn’t It Romantic (2019). Both of the latter films are deeply aware of the conventions of the genre, while also transcending them. The spark in both How to Be Single and Isn’t It Romantic is that the both have a very relatable kernel of truth at their core. I was happy to see her name during the credits of The Lost City. She brings a high level of wit and relevance to the films she works on.
The Lost City is a genuinely fun romp with an abundance of charm and hijinks.
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Jolie Featherstone: @TOFilmFiles