The Lost City, directed by Adam and Aaron Nee, is a good movie, but for inscrutable and ineffable reasons. The story is not particularly original, daring only in its Romancing The Stone mimicry. It isn’t shot with any sizzling style. Its dialogue is clever one minute, then whiffs the next. And yet! Anyone who watches this motion picture and says they truly disliked it is probably telling a fib. It succeeds because of one thing: star power. Hey, if it works, it works, and that’s likely what the producers said when the Nee Brothers’ rushes came back.
Who are the Nee Brothers? Prior to this wide release starring Bullock, Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison, and a few clutch scenes with Brad Pitt, they released an $18,000 indie called The Last Romantic that hit festivals in 2008, and then some Comedy Central pilots. (Next up for them is a reworked Masters Of The Universe.) The jury is still out on the duo as auteurs, but one thing is certain: They know when to get the hell out of the way when their leads are in command.
Sandra Bullock is as delightful here as in any of her top shelf comedy work like Miss Congeniality, While You Were Sleeping, or The Heat. In The Lost City she’s a romance novelist named Loretta Sage, who is reluctant to leave her home after the recent (but not that recent) death of her husband. But Bullock agrees to do some publicity for her latest release, and, wearing a preposterous spangled magenta jumpsuit, goes on stage with the cover model for her books, Alan a.k.a. Dash (Tatum). Turns out that while she has an eager fanbase, the fans are far more interested in the slab of concrete who reps her brand. Alan is a gentle giant, but the lowbrow quality his very presence represents is woefully depressing to the author, who, despite coaching to the contrary, uses words like “sapiosexual” when trying to sell books to squeeing fans.
Then a very energetic Daniel Radcliffe shows up as an eccentric zillionaire obsessed with finding buried treasure, who recognizes that a page in Sage’s new novel shows she has insight into deciphering some glyphs on an ancient scrap of parchment. Soon, she’s kidnapped, and Alan leads a team to rescue her. A fair degree of laughter and silliness ensues.
It will be but a few minutes after the closing credits before the specifics of this cockamamie plot begins to dissolve in your mind, but what will linger, mostly, is the genuine thrill of seeing Bullock and Tatum taunt one another with zings as they scurry through the jungle and (yes, yes) fall in love.
Not that there aren’t some flubs. There’s a big build-up to a moment in which Bullock is face-to-face with Tatum’s junk that should have been a gag for the ages. Unfortunately, the four credited screenwriters didn’t give her anything memorable to say. But there are instances of physical comedy, like Tatum trying to rescue Bullock while she is still tied to a chair, that are genuinely rewarding.
The Lost City is a big studio release playing in theaters, and for any kind of “date night,” it is a solid base hit. But should you find yourself on an airplane a few months from now and this is a viewing option, that’s when it becomes a home run. It’s not a knock to admit we all desire comforting movies in uncomfortable situations.