13 Apr 2022

At The Movies - The Lost City

From At The Movies, 7:30 pm on 13 April 2022

Movie stars Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum attempt to bring back the romantic comedy by disguising it as an action spoof in The Lost City. 

Simon Morris likes both actors and Romancing the Stone - one of several films The Lost City references. What could possibly go wrong?

Simon Morris: I confess I had some hopes for a comedy romp called The Lost City, despite its title.

There have been countless films called The Lost City over the years, not even counting near-misses from this one's inspiration, Indiana Jones - The Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, the Kingdom of Crystal Skulls and so on.

This Lost City stars Sandra Bullock as a burnt-out romance novelist, Loretta Sage, who writes steamy adventure sagas featuring the glamourous Dash.

On the front covers, the blonde-maned Dash is played by a model - the photogenic but dim Alan.

Alan is clearly based on a real-life 80s model called Fabio. Loretta is not a million miles away from the Kathleen Turner character in another '80s hit, the movie Romancing the Stone.

But it was a good idea, and Sandy and Channing Tatum as Alan clearly have some chemistry. Now all we need is a plot.

Which arrives fresh from Plots'R'Us - the old chestnut about a sinister billionaire kidnapping Loretta because - did I not mention this? - she happens to read Lost City of the Incas hieroglyphs or something.

The billionaire is played by the eager to please Daniel Radcliffe.

Loretta's agent and Alan the model need to work out how to rescue the kidnapped novelist. And Alan decides that he needs to go to the deepest jungle of wherever it is to do this, because…. Well because it's funny.

I mean, why else is Sandra Bullock wearing such a ridiculous, pink, spangled jumpsuit? You got a problem with funny?

Well not exactly, but I don't think the two directors, brothers Aaron and Adam Nee - no, me neither - have quite grasped how a film like The Lost City works.

It's an adventure romp, so the danger has to be genuine enough for us to worry about it. It's also a romantic comedy, so the two leads have to be daggers drawn a lot of the movie…

Here, the danger is essentially Harry Potter and a bunch of no-lines extras.

And the romance is neither one thing nor the other. Are they good mates or are they meant for each other?

Since Alan is a dumb blonde and Loretta's a grumpy cynic, some work is clearly required to get them plausibly together.

The first thing I would have done - if anyone asked - would be to lighten Sandy's character up a bit.

In real life, she's breezy and likable, but recently she seems to have got the idea that people won't respect her unless she's frowning all the time.

And Channing could have dialled back the moronic a wee bit too. Belatedly some effort was made to give him a few hidden depths. Sorry, too late and not deep enough.

Clearly, the Nee brothers think all you have to do is drop Sandra and Channing into the jungle and wait for the inevitable sparks to fly.

But the only time this actually happens - it can't be a spoiler because all the publicity for The Lost City trumpets it - is when Brad Pitt, no less, turns up as a real-life heroic Dash figure.

Watching Brad effortlessly take over the movie with the same aplomb as he effortlessly swats the villains away makes you wonder - as so often in this sort of production - what could have been done with this film in somebody else's hands.

And you didn't call it The Lost City.

The answer to the question "What if you got someone good to direct it?" is sadly always the same. "We'd have had to spend a bit more money."

But as anyone who's made a successful romantic adventure could tell them, a hit's worth anything you spent on it. Just ask the producers of Romancing the Stone.

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