Sandra Bullock’s ability to elevate even the blandest of material does not get the credit it deserves. She is consistently one of the best parts of every film she is in and her last film, the box office hit The Lost City, is proof of that. On paper The Lost City has all the makings for an instant classic, an adventure-comedy with that same dash of odd couple romance that made films like Romancing the Stone so popular. Unfortunately, reality tells a different story.
Although the pieces are there, the film never puts the puzzle together in a way that makes for a satisfying picture. The story revolves around a reclusive author, Loretta Sage (Bullock), who has made a successful career writing a series of adventure-based romance novels. Still grieving over the passing of her husband, Loretta has decided that her latest book will be her final work. A fact that her publisher, Beth Hatten (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), and obnoxious cover model Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum) only discover while on her current book tour.
Long enamored with Loretta, the smitten Alan has never mustered up the courage to tell the author how he really feels. He may miss his chance as Loretta is abducted one day by henchmen working for eccentric billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe). A collector of rare things, Fairfax has been searching for the famed Lost City for quite sometime. Narrowing down his search to a remote island, which he purchased, the billionaire is determined to find the “crown of fire”, a diamond adorned headgear that is rumored to be somewhere within the city. To find the crown, he needs someone to decipher an ancient language to pin-point its exact location on the island.
As luck would have it, for Fairfax at least, Loretta’s latest novel is not only set in the Lost City, but also conveys details that only someone who could decipher the language would know. While Fairfax forces the author to aide in his quest, Beth and Alan mount a plan to save her. One that will involve the help of a skilled and mysterious tracker name Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt).
While Pitt’s scene-stealing cameo generates big laughs, the bulk of The Lost City focuses on Bullock and Tatum’s mismatched couple trying to survive in an unknown land. Although both actors do their best to keep the film moving, the script by directors Adam Nee and Aaron Nee (aka. the Nee brothers), and co-writers Oren Uziel and Dana Fox, never feels as fully developed as it should. There is a lot of expository dialogue in the first half that only serves to give you the slimmest of character definitions before the central figures arrive on the island. Lorretta is defined by her grief far more than she is for the fact that studying ancient civilizations was her passion prior to being a novelist.
Loretta’s intellect is only really touched on when paired with the good-looking but dimwitted Alan. Her agency never feels as empowering as it should as she is often thrown back into the damsel in distress role. This would not be such an issue had the Nee brothers played up the tropes of the romance novel genre far more. Unfortunately, there is neither enough romantic beats nor adventure beats to truly satisfy on either front. One is simply left to watch the two charming leads go through the motions.
The chemistry that the pair share is evident on the Blu-ray special features as well. Arriving in stores today, the Blu-ray has a good number of featurettes that offer further insight into the film. The most fascinating segment is “Building the Lost City” which goes in-depth into the production and set design work. One gets a good understanding of the tight timelines and the detailed work involved in making the elaborate sets.
The Lost City does not hit the heights it strives for, but those who simply want to see Bullock and Tatum banter playfully for a few hours will find things to enjoy.