(Written by Allison Brown)
As probably my most anticipated film of South by Southwest this year, The Lost City had big shoes to fill. Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt, and Daniel Radcliffe all shine in their respective roles. The chemistry between Bullock and Tatum is palpable despite their sixteen-year age gap, and as a pair, their banter hits all the right notes. The island visuals are impressively beautiful, as if they were pulled from a postcard, and left me wondering where the movie really filmed (apparently the Dominican Republic!). However, I did expect to like it more than I did. The standard rom-com plot isn’t exactly the most creative and is very similar to elements of several other recent releases, like Uncharted and Jungle Cruise just to name a couple. That’s not to say The Lost City is bad by any means; directors Aaron and Adam Nee easily draw a constant stream of raucous laughter from the audience. It is an adequate comedy amplified by the stellar cast, including small roles from Sundance breakout star Patti Harrison (Together Together), Bowen Yang (SNL), and Oscar Nuñez (The Office). Any other group of actors would have left the film lukewarm.
As The Lost City begins, we stumble upon Channing and Sandra in character in a love scene, where segments of the story, including a pile of random snakes, slowly disappear. It is a great introduction to romance novelist Loretta Sage (Bullock), who is in her room putting the finishing touches to this new adult book acted out before us, The Lost City of D. It has taken Loretta longer than usual to finish after the passing of her late archaeologist husband, John, and she has become a “geriatric shut-in.” At the first scheduled stop on her dreaded book tour, Loretta complains backstage about her attire (a soon-to-be notorious magenta sequin jumpsuit) as she is briefed by publishing agent Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). All press will be conducted side-by-side with her annoying cover model Alan (Tatum), who represents Dash from her novels.
On stage, the fans could care less about anything she has to say; they adore Dash and beg him to strip. Loretta goes through the motions as she is exasperated by this work, and out of frustration, announces The Lost City of D is Dash’s final book! She eventually gives in to the audience’s pleas and rips off Dash’s shirt, which causes him to topple off the stage—wig snatched and all. Alan and Loretta exchange words on their way out and things do not end well. Loretta frustratingly asks a hotel attendant to help her order a car after knocking over a garbage can, and accidentally ends up in the wrong black car.
Turns out, it is not a mistake for those already present. They intend to kidnap her and expressly deliver her to millionaire Abigail Fairfax (Radcliffe). She instantly assumes she’s in a real-life iteration of Taken, but Fairfax has more logical intentions. In her novel, a fictional archaeologist makes genuine translations of an ancient dead language. Apparently, Loretta did her dissertation on the real lost city of D and used this experience in her writing. She has indispensable knowledge that can help Fairfax find the real life “crown of fire” mentioned in her fictional work. He only needs Loretta to decipher the symbols on a fragment of an ancient parchment to uncover the location of the tomb where the treasure is hidden. He has already invested a serious amount of time and money to find Isla Hundida (the real lost city), purchased it, and hopes Loretta will return with him. When she disagrees, Fairfax’s cronies chloroform Loretta and throw her in a jet. Her inner circle, Beth, Alan, and Allison, quickly track her down with the Find My app from her smartwatch. Alan, who secretly harbors feelings for Loretta, immediately flies to the rescue with a little bit of help from an old friend he met at a meditation retreat, Jack Trainer. All things quickly go south, but this is where the fun begins!
Prior to this watch, I completely forgot Brad Pitt was in the movie. This is his Tropic Thunder level cameo! Pitt is pure perfection as Trainer, and an impeccable foil to Tatum’s knockoff Fabio character, Dash. I love that The Lost City is self-aware of its absurdity and even specifically throws in a joke referring to the real Fabio. Jack Trainer is precisely what Loretta wrote Dash to be: an excessively masculine man, sensitive yet brawny, with flowing golden locks. He is a protector who easily defeats any enemy that comes through his path, while Alan as Dash is a high maintenance sham literally wearing a comparable blonde hairpiece. I do wish we were able to spend more time with this character, as he was one of my favorites. Social media expert Allison (Patti Harrison) deserves more screen time as well. I promise this is not biased at all given we share the same name! Such quotable lines as, “Nana, hey slut!” will stay with me for some time. Since her role in Together Together last year, I have become newly obsessed with Patti, and an extended performance could have only added comedically to Beth’s eventual voyage to save her friend.
The long running jokes through the story were well-formed. Sandra Bullock being passed around and thrown into a car while tied to a chair was one of the funniest parts of the film. I also loved the slight feminist angle, as Loretta becomes a relatively strong decision maker as the plot progresses, while the male lead in the film, Alan, is a wimpy, bumbling idiot. At one point, Alan is overtaken by leeches, and he hilariously refers to himself as a “blood Jamba Juice,” while Loretta must be the strong one and remove it from his chiseled body.
All in all, The Lost City is worth the watch for a laugh out loud good time, a surplus of eye candy and a lot of action, just don’t expect it to become your new favorite adventure comedy film.
The Lost City seduced its audience at the 2022 South by Southwest Film Festival last week, and romances theaters on Friday, March 25th.