By Alex McPherson
“The Lost City,” directed by Adam and Aaron Nee, is a purely enjoyable action comedy with strong performances that provides comfort food for viewers seeking escapist fluff.
This wacky yarn centers around an archeologist-turned-adventure-romance-novelist named Loretta (Sandra Bullock), grieving her late husband and lacking excitement in her life, despite efforts by her publisher, Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), and cringey social media manager, Allison (Patti Harrison), to support her career. Her newest novel, “The Lost City of D,” continues the treasure-hunting escapades of Dash McMahon, portrayed by cover model Alan (Channing Tatum) wearing a luscious wig. Alan, a classic Himbo, has a huge crush on Loretta and wants her to see him as more than just an attractive hunk.
After an unfortunate press conference, Loretta is kidnapped by wild-eyed businessman Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who wants Loretta to help him find the actual treasure from her latest novel. Fairfax whisks Loretta away to a CGI-heavy, remote island in the Atlantic, leaving Alan and company distraught. They soon enlist the services of a chilled-out mercenary Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) to help rescue Loretta, and real carnage ensues. Alan and Loretta end up fighting to survive, having the adventure of a lifetime and perhaps falling in love along the way.
Although “The Lost City” would likely play just as well on cable, the Nee brothers deliver a lighthearted romp that’s difficult to dislike. The cast’s comedic chops and some thrilling action sequences ensure it remains perfectly entertaining from start to finish.
Narratively, “The Lost City” doesn’t break any new ground — functioning mainly as a vessel to put Loretta and Alan in screwball situations that wind up bringing them together. With humor that aims for mid-level raunchiness, Bullock and Tatum have fizzy chemistry, adding a sense of vulnerability to their performances that gives their characters hints of depth.
Loretta, donning a sequined jumpsuit for most of the film, is unable to live in the present, having been burned by a reality far separated from the fearlessness of her writing. She’s uptight, defensive, yet still thrilled on some level by her predicament, and Bullock’s sarcastic, typically spicy line delivery serves Loretta well as she breaks out of her shell. Tatum does what he does best, embodying a goofy muscle man with a heart of gold. Alan wants to be Loretta’s knight in shining armor, though it’s just as often him in danger.
Certain scenarios — like Loretta removing leeches from Alan’s buttocks — use the exotic surroundings to mine some amusing moments and plenty of innuendos. Bullock and Tatum bounce lines off each other with solid comedic timing, even when some jokes don’t land. Indeed, the biggest laughs of “The Lost City” involve physical comedy, particularly involving Pitt, who fits the cartoonish proceedings like a glove and would give John Wick a run for his money. Calmly extinguishing bad guys with precision, he’s utterly hilarious, especially when contrasted with Alan, who aspires to meet Trainer’s badassery yet falls flat, desperately trying but failing to seem cool in Loretta’s eyes.
When “The Lost City” focuses on Alan and Loretta bumbling their way through crazy circumstances, there’s little to whine about — the group’s banter and slapstick comedy keep the momentum going. Unfortunately, Pitt aside, side-characters don’t leave much of an impression. An extended subplot involving Randolph’s Beth abandons the film’s strengths to rely on comparatively mundane, hit-or-miss dialogue that tries too hard to be current. Radcliffe is also maniacally effective, but Fairfax’s motivations — being ignored by his father — are pretty flimsy, and he remains one-note throughout. Additionally, the film’s swerve into eye-rolling sentimentality in the third act lacks any sort of surprise, falling back into a creatively stagnant formula.
That being said, “The Lost City” neither overstays its welcome nor blows your socks off. It’s a lightweight tonic for our cynical times.
“The Lost City” is a 2022 comedy directed by Aaron and Adam Nee. It stars Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Danielle Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Brad Pitt. It’s run time is 1 hour, 52 minutes and rated PG-13 for violence and some bloody images, suggestive material, partial nudity and language. Alex’s Grade: B
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.