“Is this Taken?!?” asks a kidnapped Sandra Bullock in The Lost City. It’s not, thankfully. More like Romancing the Stone Redux, as a successful-but-adrift novelist (Bullock’s Loretta Sage) gets swept up in a jungle-based quest for a precious MacGuffin.
But a key branching-off from Robert Zemeckis’ 1984 breakout (look out for the sly nod here) is that our protag pairs up not with a bird-hunting, wilderness-savvy Michael Douglas, but with an altogether less rugged Channing Tatum.
For it is Tatum’s Fabio-esque (the wig gets some nice comic mileage), out-of-his-depth book-cover-model Alan who stumbles into action when Loretta is “Tooken” by wicked billionaire Fairfax (an avidly petulant Daniel Radcliffe) to a remote island, in hopes that her knowledge of dead languages will help him nab the keys to the titular, treasure-rich kingdom.
One wheelbarrow-assisted rescue later and it’s San ‘n’ Chan versus the jungle, renegotiating their fractious relationship along the way. It’s here, amid scenes of campfire-building, hammock-wrangling, and – most memeable of all – leech-tackling (ahem), that the love/hate gears run smoothest.
The stars are thoroughly game: Bullock performs pratfalls the equal of Miss Congeniality; Tatum bares enough skin to turn Magic Mike crimson. If only the script served them more snappy repartee on a par with their standout exchange about mansplaining. (Another keeper elsewhere is Bullock’s retort to Radcliffe’s snide ‘cat-lady’ jibes.)
Still, the leads’ chemistry is sturdy enough to ward off disappointment that The Lost City doesn’t, as originally mooted, reteam Bullock with The Proposal’s Ryan Reynolds. Meanwhile, amid a slew of scene-stealing contenders – no-BS publisher Da’Vine Joy Randolph, handy pilot Oscar Nuñez, Randy the goat – the film’s answer to Betty White emerges in the form of Brad Pitt as a soldier of fortune whose special skills do introduce a bit of a Taken vibe, albeit leavened with an explosive dose of farce.
If the film hits its set-piece peak with Pitt, later stages see The Lost City lose some lustre. Sibling helmers Aaron and Adam Nee (who also co-wrote, with Oren Uziel and Dana Fox) attempt to pump up the peril with creepy caves, fathomless depths and volcanic omens.
Yet few of the Romancing/Raiders echoes translate into the sort of seat-edge thrills that might distract from the prosaic revelations and predictable wrap-up. At least, over the course of nearly two hours, the Nees never get too bogged down in plot; this may not be the adventure of a lifetime, but it’s no jungle snooze.
The Lost City is in US theaters now and UK cinemas from April 13. For more, check out the most exciting upcoming movies heading your way soon.
3 out of 5
The Lost City review: “A breezy adventure that sticks to charted territory”
Star power swings to the rescue of a breezy romantic adventure that sticks to charted territory. Tatum fans will go weak at the Nees’ use of their hero.