Sandra Bullock enters “getting too old for this shit” (© Mel Gibson/Danny Glover) in The Lost City, a knockabout adventure designed to be taken with an ironic pinch of whatever you fancy. Park critical faculties at the door and dive in.
Explicit reference is made to Bullock’s antiquity at several points but actually the remarkable thing is that, in spite of the fact that she’s been making films like this for about 30 years, there still seems to be tread left on the tyres.
From the very opening seconds of the movie, when Bullock is introduced as a writer of romantic adventure fiction whose sales are slipping as fast as her self-confidence, it’s a nailed-on cert that Loretta Sage (Bullock) is going to get involved in precisely the sort of story that she writes. And that she’s going to be accompanied on her adventure by dim model dude Alan, a himbo who’s posed as Dash, her hero, on the cover of all her books, and whose celebrity now threatens to overshadow Loretta’s own. “Dash, rip off your shirt!” one excitable female squeals at a Q&A for Loretta’s latest book, which Alan has gatecrashed. And since Dash/Alan is played by Channing Tatum, it can only be a matter of time before he does.
Before you can say “where have I seen this before?”, Loretta has been kidnapped by a mega mastermind (Daniel Radcliffe) and whisked off to a remote island where treasure linked to an ancient civilisation lies buried. Precisely the civilisation mentioned in Sage’s most recent book, The Lost City of D, which is all fiction, but has at least some grounding in reality on account of her being the widow of a famous globetrotting archaeologist. So she’s Mrs Indiana Jones then.
Enter Brad Pitt as an ex Navy SEAL hired by Sage’s manager to try and rescue her, and cue the film’s funniest sequence, when he badasses his way through an entire island of henchmen, accompanied by the entirely hopeless Alan, who’s snuck along in an attempt to impress Loretta, who holds him in the lowest form of contempt.
The film peaks here, at about 45 minutes in. It’s been rote, but smart rote thus far, but the film seems happy to hit cruise control once it’s got past however many pages of screenplay it took for the production to get greenlit. After which it’s Loretta in a spangly jumpsuit and Alan, shirt on and off, having adventures in the jungle while bad guys on motorbikes chase after them. Motorbikes in the jungle.
It’s custom tooled for Bullock’s style of klutzy comedy, she’s also the producer, but plays nicely to Tatum’s strengths as well – self-deprecating humour, an ability to dance – though, as suggested, the best stuff comes up front, before the stars start having to engage in doofy exchanges, saying stuff to each other that’s meant to be funny because big movie stars are saying it but actually isn’t really.
Radcliffe, in a smart cream suit that never gets creased, plays the very well spoken mega mastermind Abigail Fairfax (it’s a gender neutral first name, he insists) as a different kind of villain – a nice guy who’s just gone a bit wrong. It’s a role that really suits Radcliffe and might signal a career departure. Underused Da’Vine Joy Randolph gets a second string role in a b-roll strand as the manager traipsing across the world trying to secure her client’s release, a comedy subplot that would be better in a film that didn’t already have a comedy main plot. Overkill, but done well.
There are no piranhas but there is a smoking volcano threatening to off at any moment. No crocodiles but there are icky leeches to be dealt with. And at the end of it all, Loretta has been given a new lease on life thanks to her recent adventure, and has been inspired to write another romantic adventure. No one ever suggests she call it Romancing the Stone.
The Lost City – Watch it/buy it at Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2022