Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum lead in this hilarious rom-com, action-adventure flick which sees disillusioned romance author Loretta Sage (Bullock) struggling to finish her most recent novel, The Lost City of D (the original title of this film, which I believe was a mistake to change). Having lost her husband, an archaeologist like herself, she has grown weary of writing the romantic series which has shot cover model Alan Caprison (Tatum) to fame as Dash McMahon (ala Fabio) and leaves her most recent book with no ending, and the intention of killing off the character of Dash in her very next installment. Leaving her fanbase, and more importantly her cover model, in shock and dismay, Loretta has no intention of changing her mind.
The Lost City is very careful in how it covers the genre – the grand adventure in a previously undiscovered area (which has people living there, of course), the romantic journey – from enemies to lovers, no less – to the action-adventure rescue that goes awry and improvisation is the only thing that will save our intrepid heroes now. Suffice it to say, the film is hilarious, action-packed, and powerful. At least, it was for me.
In what proves to be the film’s best background detail, Loretta is an archaeologist and only began writing the novels as a way of making money, while also including real details from her and her husband’s research. All of this has caught the attention of Abigail Fairfax (played with delicious hilarity by Daniel Radcliffe) who intends on partnering up with Loretta in order to find the titular Lost City of D and the famed Crown of Fire. Unfortunately for Abigail, Loretta is not at all tempted to partner with him after he straight up kidnaps her (though, to be fair, his minions made it look like they were kidnapping her by actually kidnapping her). Unwilling to be outdone by his brother Beverly, who has recently inherited the family company, Abigail (shockingly) kidnaps Loretta. This leads to Alan Caprison and Loretta’s publisher Beth Hatten (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) seeking the help of the police, who offer almost no help.
Alan, unwilling to let the last chance of his character’s survival, enlists the surprising help of Ben Affleck, playing a parody of his typical roles as Jack Trainer, in saving Loretta. While Alan and Jack set off to rescue Loretta, Beth takes matters into her own hands in a hilarious subplot that plays throughout the film. Ben Affleck, with limited screen time, still manages to shine as one of the most hilarious characters included in the film.
While the initial rescue goes well, it falls apart shortly thereafter and Alan and Loretta are thrown together, lost in the jungle on the outskirts of the city of D, pursued by Abigail’s henchmen. While they struggle to work together, their own feelings about their situation get in the way of their efforts at first, the obvious happens, and romance blooms between the two over the course of the film. What The Lost City does, though, is play with that convention and uses the natural chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum to build from mutual enmity to grudging friendship, to something that might be love against the backdrop of the need to survive. Their quirks, though, serve to keep them apart until the dramatic finale.
While Loretta is seemingly uninterested in helping Abigail, she cannot help but snatch the clue he has uncovered in order to figure out the mystery for herself. Ironically, that works into Abigail’s plans just well, as long as nobody actually kills her first. This leads to one of the funniest sequences where Loretta and Alan realize they are only shooting at Alan and use that to their advantage. All the while, Beth is working her way to the island, intent on rescuing Loretta, and Alan for good measure.
Comedies have, as I’ve mentioned in other reviews, a hard time straddling the line – what one viewer finds funny will completely fail on another viewer, after all. For my purposes, The Lost City hit the right note. It was funny where it needed to be, dramatic at the right moments, and delivers a powerfully slow-burning romantic arc between the two leads. It’s not a question of if but when the pair will get together, and the film is certain to take its time in building to that all-important moment so that it doesn’t miss its mark.
Similarly, the metaphor with the Crown of Fire is thematically tied to their romantic arc. It shows how different Loretta and Abigail are, too – where one understands the wealth that comes from a full life and true love, Abigail only sees value in the material. We all know how that’s going to end, of course.
By the time the mid-credits scene rolls around (because every film has to have one these days) I was already asking myself if there was going to be a follow-up. I hope there is, though this film also provides a nice story that is effectively wrapped up with a bow. Sometimes, you don’t need a franchise. Sometimes you just want to sit back and enjoy a film that’s “one and done.” Besides, Channing Tatum has to get back to making Magic Mike 3.
On another note, because of scheduling issues, Sandra Bullock will be rejoining Ben Affleck for another film in 2022 – Bullet Train. I can only imagine what they’ll get up to in that film.