“The Lost City” feels highly familiar, but thoroughly engaging

With stars Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum repeating tried-and-tested performances, “The Lost City”‘s success feels assured

Starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Brad Pitt

There’s something about the subversion of expectation that provides the bedrock for much well-written comedy. On this front, The Lost City most certainly succeeds. Upending the traditional genre roles of classic adventure stories like Indiana Jones, Channing Tatum stars as the highly affable, well intentioned but woefully dim, incredibly muscular sidekick Alan to Sandra Bullock’s highly capable romance novelist Loretta as the pair attempt to escape the clutches of well-mannered but utterly ruthless British billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who believes that Loretta holds the key to a lost treasure she coincidentally wrote about.

It certainly plays to the strengths of stars Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. Tatum has made his career out of non-threatening masculinity, and Bullock turns in performances akin to The Proposal and Miss Congeniality. As a pair, the two are also near-perfectly matched as polar opposites. Where Alan is optimistic and enthusiastic, Loretta is realistic and no-nonsense. While Alan looks the part of the action hero, with bulging biceps and all-round impressive physique, he proves himself to be woefully unhelpful, dragged along on the adventure by Loretta, whose fierce intelligence is masked by a garish, sequinned pink jumpsuit and highly impractical footwear. Additionally, while Alan desperately seeks Loretta’s approval, she views him as a signal of every failure that she has attained, hemmed in as she feels by the career that she has cultivated out of writing unchallenging romantic fiction in the wake of her late husband’s demise. It also comes as no surprise when, over the course of their adventure, the audience witness Loretta become gradually less guarded and warm to Alan’s disarming, genuine nature as their acrimonious relationship blossoms into something more.

The tale starts with Loretta, who has become a recluse following the unexpected loss of her husband, embarking on a book tour organised by friend and publicist Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and assisted by new social media manager Allison (Patti Harrison) to promote her new novel The Lost City of D. Less than enthusiastic about the prospect, being forced to dress up in a spangly jumpsuit and push for sales through highlighting the erotic, romantic elements of her fiction in contrast to her intellectual nature, she is joined on the book tour by cover model Alan, who portrays Loretta’s heartthrob Dash McMahon with a somewhat fanatical fervour (complete with gorgeous, flowing blonde locks).

After a disastrous start to the tour, in which Loretta and Alan butt heads because of her dismissiveness towards her own novels, Loretta is kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (played in a deliciously deranged, utterly captivating way by Daniel Radcliffe) who has realised that Loretta’s romance novel contains genuine research into the Lost City of D, which he himself has located and seeks Loretta’s help to locate the priceless artefact of the Crown of Fire. Despite his outwardly charming appearance, when Loretta refuses, he chloroforms her and whisks her away to the island, tasking Alan, with the help of mercenary Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt), to rescue her.

The actual plot bumbles away nicely in the background, really serving as the stage for Bullock and Tatum’s rapport. Just like the leeches that desperately cling to Tatum’s posterior in an awkwardly exposing moment, The Lost City lives and breathes on the predictable quality of the two stars at its centre. The way that Tatum reveals more layers to Alan than merely a dumb bro, but one with genuine care and affection for Loretta, while she becomes gradually less guarded and falls back in love with living again is disarmingly charming to witness.

There are other capable performances too. Brad Pitt turns in a wonderfully silly performance as Jack Trainer, the killing machine that makes Alan entirely flaccid by comparison – as nobly emboldened as he was to traverse the world to save Loretta, with his airline pillow and AirPods, feebly following along behind Trainer, slapping Fairfax’s henchman with a terrified squeal doesn’t run out of amusement. There’s something endlessly charming about the subversion of an incredibly muscular, large gentleman not having a demeanour to match that will never fail to catch an audience off guard.

Patti Harrison is quite bizarre as Loretta’s social media manager, Allison, in ways that mostly work but certainly push the constraints of the film’s silliness meter. Regaling the tale of her missing friend who perished, or calling a Grandma “slut” causes Allison to make a large impression despite her comparative lack of screen time, while Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a captivating force of nature as Beth, though the script does little to elevate her character beyond “sassy black best friend” tropes.

With naturalistic, witty dialogue performed with aplomb by seasoned comedy performers Bullock and Tatum, The Lost City is brilliantly entertaining and a wonderful, frivolous diversion.

The Lost City was released in cinemas on 15 April 2022.

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