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You’ll find a good time in ‘The Lost City’

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There was a certain flavor of film that we used to see fairly often back in the day, films that were part rom-com, part adventure. These movies brought together action elements with love stories and steeped the whole thing in quippy banter and moments of slapstick. Now, were these movies always good? Of course not. But they were almost always fun – and that was more than enough.

We don’t see as many of those films these days, what with the industry’s pivot to IP blockbusters and franchise development. But when they do turn up, it can be a reminder of how much fun these kinds of movie experiences can be.

“The Lost City,” directed by Aaron and Adam Nee from a screenplay they co-wrote with Dana Fox and Oren Uziel, is a throwback to those delightful mélanges of comedy, adventure and romance. Thanks to some engaging performances, headlined by Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, and a distinctly retro storytelling sensibility, the movie proves to be a lovely romp, a frothy, goofy trifle of a film that refuses to take itself too seriously.

Sure, it might not be great cinema, but I definitely had a great time … and I bet you will too.

Romance novelist Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is stuck. She’s struggling to finish the latest book in her ongoing series, much to the chagrin of her agent Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), and still dealing with the grief over the passing of her archaeologist husband a few years earlier.

Reluctantly, Loretta agrees to appear at a convention for a Q&A, where she discovers that she will be joined by Alan (Channing Tatum), the airheaded beefcake cover model that has represented her hunky hero Dash McMahon since the beginning. There’s conflict between the two, with both sporting significant egos.

But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Loretta Sage’s books.

See, it turns out that she has long been incorporating aspects of the archaeological work she did with her husband into her books. And this newest one – “The Lost City of D” – is no exception. However, this time, someone noticed. Someone who views this as a unique opportunity.

Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) is the son of a billionaire business mogul, obsessed with possessing the unpossessable. He believes that the Lost City of D is real, and that Loretta is the key to translating a pictographic language that will lead him to a lost tomb and a fabled treasure. And so, he does what weird rich guys do in these sorts of movies – he kidnaps her and whisks her away to a small island where, as it turns out, he has been excavating the very real lost city.

And Alan sees her get taken.

Being generally clueless, he’s at a loss for what to do. However, he is able to enlist the help of a Navy SEAL-turned-meditation trainer that he knows, a guy named Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt). Alan heads to the island to meet up with Trainer, only to insist that he be allowed to participate. Against his better judgment, Trainer allows Alan to come along.

The rescue effort soon goes sideways, however, with circumstances leaving the equally-inept Alan and Loretta to make their way through the jungle on their own, all with Fairfax and his forces in pursuit. And as they do their best to stay safe and stay alive, the mismatched pair learns that they have more in common than they might have guessed, even as they embark on a real-life adventure far more exciting than anything Loretta could ever have written.

“The Lost City” is reminiscent of ‘80s-era adventure films like “Romancing the Stone,” fun and irreverent love stories set in exotic locales and driven by grand adventure. This isn’t a film that intends to challenge; its sole aim is to entertain – an aim that it achieves with a breezy ease.

The Nees aren’t reinventing the wheel here – they are capable, competent filmmakers who clearly have real affection for telling this type of story, so they just … do that. There’s very little fuss or muss at play here – everyone involved seems pretty clear on what kind of film that they’re making and, not for nothing, they all seem to be having a damned good time making it.

The key to a film like this one’s relative success is how well the various elements are welded together. You need to have solid action-oriented set pieces and workable romantic chemistry and a collection of decent jokes. If you don’t have all three, it probably isn’t going to click. “The Lost City” clicks.

Filming on location is important with this kind of movie. You don’t want to see people wandering around what is clearly a soundstage on a back lot somewhere. “The Lost City” is clearly happening in a real place – in this case, the Dominican Republic – which lends the proceedings a verisimilitude that contributes mightily. This helps the assorted action sequences – mostly well-executed chases, but a couple of surprising alternatives as well – stand out.

And when you’ve got a central pairing like Bullock and Tatum, well … you’re in good shape. Bullock is still throwing rom-com heat; she’s prickly and self-conscious and awkward in all the best ways. Tatum – whose comedic talents are generally underrated – gives us a heart-of-gold himbo and just radiates charm. The two of them together are a delight, with bouncy banter and crackling energy – they generate more than enough to power this film. Meanwhile, Radcliffe is having a ball, making a meal out of every scene and generally embodying the just-inept-enough bad guy that a film like this needs. Oh, and Brad Pitt is a hoot – dude clearly understood the assignment.

“The Lost City” is a reminder of Hollywood offerings past, a throwback movie experience that, while slight, is a heck of a lot of fun. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, they don’t often make ‘em like this anymore. One might even call it … a lost art.

(For the record, “The Lost City” is better – MUCH better – than that joke.)

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 28 March 2022 11:12

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