THE LOST CITY movie poster | ©2022 Paramount Pictures

THE LOST CITY movie poster | ©2022 Paramount Pictures

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Brad Pitt
Writers: Oren Uzel and Dana Fox and Adam Nee & Aaron Nee, story by Seth Gordon
Directors: Aaron Nee & Adam Nee
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: March 25, 2022

THE LOST CITY is not to be confused with previous films that have the same or similar titles. Likewise, it is not to be mistaken for older movies that have the same general premise, i.e., ROMANCE THE STONE and subsequent variations on it.

Then again, THE LOST CITY is a bit of a parody of the genre (which tend to be parodies of themselves, which adds to the meta vibe). Instead of being a romance writer who longs to be swept away on the kind of grand adventure that she writes, romance writer Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has pretty much had it with everything. Despite twenty bestsellers to her name, Loretta has become a virtual shut-in since the death of her beloved archaeologist husband five years earlier.

Loretta thinks she’s hit bottom during a Q&A panel with Alan (Channing Tatum), the evidently not-very-bright though goodhearted cover model for those twenty books. Leaving the building in distress, Loretta is kidnapped by minions of the wealthy Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe).

Maybe Loretta doesn’t care about finding lost treasure anymore, but Fairfax certainly does. Having read Loretta’s books, Fairfax is convinced the author is the only one who can correctly translate hieroglyphs that will lead him to the Lost City of D and its treasures.

Alan turns out to be a lot more loyal to Loretta than she would ever have imagined. He enlists the help of mercenary Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) to find Loretta, who by now is on the tropical island in the Atlantic where Fairfax’s lost city is located.

Despite Jack’s greater experience in these matters, Alan is determined to be helpful in rescuing Loretta.

On one hand, THE LOST CITY has some tonal issues. Directed by Aaron Nee & Adam Nee, from a screenplay they wrote with Oren Uzel and Dana Fox, from Seth Gordon’s story, the movie wants to both send up and embody the romantic adventure genre, and sometimes winds up falling into the gulf in between. It also delivers hard hits on jokes that are amusing but not hilarious.

Then again, for viewers who were already heartily sick of romantic leads who are awful to each other before ROMANCING THE STONE came along to give us more of that, THE LOST CITY has a refreshingly agreeable dynamic between the leads. Yes, Loretta gets exasperated easily, and yes, Alan’s ditziness seems to come and go (there when the filmmakers think it’s funny, gone when it will interfere with the plot), but there is a sense of human decency that shines through. This may not be precisely what is meant by “romantic chemistry,” but it’s better than what we often get in this sort of fare.

There is a nod to how condescending “exotic” stories can be to the local populace, which becomes a narrative pivot at one juncture. Then again, THE LOST CITY doesn’t entirely refrain from indulging in comedic (albeit not negative) tropes.

Radcliffe makes an acceptable upbeat manic villain, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph has conviction and good timing as Loretta’s determined manager. Pitt knows exactly what he’s doing.

THE LOST CITY is a romantic comedy adventure for those nostalgic about how these felt in days of yore, but who’d just as soon skip the less agreeable specifics – and who have a tolerance for hit-and-miss laughs.

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