VOD film review: The Lost City
James R | On 24, Sep 2022
Director: Aaron Nee, Adam Nee
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe
From Jungle Cruise and Jumanji to Red Notice and Disney+’s National Treasure TV series, the action-adventure caper is having something of a moment right now. From The African Queen to The Mummy, not to mention one Indiana Jones, there’s a timeless charm to the formula of odd-couple (or odd-ensemble) hijinks meets globe-trotting spectacle, often with a raised eyebrow and wry smile. The Lost City is the latest to join the jungle run, but it does so with a crucial understanding of what makes the genre so appealing – that, on one level, it’s actually a romantic comedy.
It’s a masterstroke, then, to cast Sandra Bullock, the queen of romantic comedies, in the leading role. And, in an another inspired move, to pair her with Channing Tatum, one of the funniest and sweetest anti-macho men in Hollywood. She’s an expert in playing smart while still being capable of silliness, and he’s a veteran of subverting every masculine ideal without descending into parody. Together, they’re a perfect match, dismantling the kind of ideals projected upon them by others with a sincerity that’s just heartfelt and messy enough to make them relatable, while still selling a slice of blockbusting entertainment.
Their characters might as well have been written for them. Bullock plays Loretta, an archaeologist who has found a more lucrative gig writing slightly trashy novels about the Lara Croft-esque Dr Angela Lovemore, who goes on adventures with her romantic interest, Dash. Tatum plays Alan, the model who poses as Dash for her book’s front covers, usually with his top off.
With Loretta still getting over the loss of her husband, she’s reluctant to go on tour with Alan to promote her latest book – but things go worst than she imagined when she winds up kidnapped by Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), a billionaire who thinks that Loretta’s books hold the secret to a hidden treasure in the titular lost city.
And so the stage is set for a rescue operation, tomb-raiding caper and will-they-won’t-they road trip. Directed by Adam and Aaron Nee, there’s fun to be had in the expected set pieces as they unfold in the shadow of a volcano, with the script balancing each element with a meta sense of humour. Even amid its bloated runtime, the key is that the film gives its cast the space to do their thing, whether that’s Radcliffe having a ball as the petulant villain or Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Loretta’s determined manager.
But this is Bullock and Tatum’s show, and their chemistry and quips keeps even the familiar beats of the genre feeling fresh and funny – watch out, in particular, for the inspired juxtaposition of Dash with an actual tough guy, in a sequence that manages to be slick, sweet and stuffed with slapstick comedy all at the same time. The result isn’t anything new, but there’s an underlying message about not judging a book by its cover that feels particularly apt.