The Lost City Synopsis: Reclusive author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) writes about exotic places in her popular adventure novels that feature a handsome cover model named Alan (Channing Tatum). While on tour promoting her new book with Alan, Loretta gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who hopes she can lead him to an ancient city’s lost treasure from her latest story.
An articulate author and her dim-witted cover model suddenly find themselves on a death-defying jungle adventure in The Lost City. Oddly enough, the only thing more archaic than the ancient tombs Loretta and Alan journey through is the film’s studio comedy approach. Studio comedies once dominated cinemas with star-studded casts and playful high-concept premises – but the genre now rests on life support as most efforts quietly wander into existence as streaming releases (Vacation Friends and The Bubble are recent examples).
With The Lost City, directors Adam and Aaron Nee resuscitate the genre’s crowdpleasing appeals onto the big screen. The Nees create a spirited revival of long-forgotten trends, an affably silly and straightforward romp that goes down easy despite its inherent disposability.
Credit to the Nees for understanding what makes films of this mold pop. The Lost City refreshingly harkens to a time when movie stars embraced their charismatic personas, composing the narrative as a mere canvas for two likable leads to go toe-to-toe comedically. I also appreciate the duo’s favoring of practical sets and effects work. The old-school jungle aesthetics are a huge step up from recent adventure epics like Jungle Cruise and Uncharted that reeked of over-produced artificiality.
The cast also elicits infectious energy as they play to the material’s lampooning spirit. I’m unsure if there’s a more affable goofball in the business than Channing Tatum, with the actor’s puppy dog naivete and movie star presence allowing him to bumble through comedic situations as the bud of several humorous jokes. Sandra Bullock makes for an effective foil through her sharp one-liners and poised comedic abilities, while supporting players Brad Pitt and Daniel Radcliffe steal the show in their limited screentime as over-the-top side characters.
The Lost City pursuits for a breezy fun time are somewhat limited. Screenwriters Oren Uziel, Dana Fox, and Adam Nee stick too rigidly to the studio comedy formula, rarely taking a chance to elevate the genre’s tried and true staples. The lack of innovation can occasionally stunt the material as it embraces a wave of over-familiar cliches and generally stunted character building.
I also wouldn’t call The Lost City an incredibly consistent experience. After the first act zips by off the appeals of its premise and some clever comedic setpieces, the rest of the experience jockeys between cleverness and obviousness as the gag-a-minute approach delivers at an inconsistent rate. I can’t help but feel that a sharper version of Lost City exists, one that leans further into the subversiveness of its protagonist’s personal connection to the dopey book franchise they are defined by.
Still, I found myself endeared by The Lost City and its lack of self-seriousness. The Nees successfully morph conventional studio formula into a comedic adventure that never forgets its star-studded appeals.
The Lost City is now playing in theaters.
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