'The Lost City': Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum Shine in Charming Adventure Comedy
It's no secret that a lot of the major studios have relied on existing IP and nostalgia when it comes to their high-profile releases. From the seemingly endless output of reboots and sequels, to the saturation of of the market by superhero movies, it's feeling rarer and rarer that we see anything that feels remotely original. As a result, I am always curious about mainstream films that at least look like they are doing something original, or at least somewhat different compared to the standard fare that we have been getting lately. The Lost City definitely piqued my interest when I first saw the trailer, as it feels like a bit of a throwback to the big studio comedies of the 90s and 2000s. Movies like this have been scarce over the past decade or so, and I have been hoping that they would make a comeback at some point. When the film originally entered development, it was planned to be a reunion between Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, who both appeared in the 2009 hit rom-com The Proposal. However, Reynolds wasn't able to do the film, and Channing Tatum was brought in to fill the role. While Bullock and Reynolds are both box-office draws and prove that they have great chemistry together, Tatum's casting might be the best thing that could have happened for the film. It gets away from the nostalgic associations many have towards the Reynolds-Bullock pairing, and allows its unique sensibilities to shine a little more. While it borrows a little from other movies, and while it does include some tropes of the genre, what it does with them is simply delightful, and makes for a fun adventure comedy that feels rather refreshing in the context of modern mainstream cinema.
At first glance, I was a little worried that this might end up being more of a rip-off of the 1984 film Romancing the Stone. Both films center on an adventure writer who gets thrown into a real-life situation that could have been ripped from the pages of the very books she writes. In the process, they seek a treasure, and go on an adventure through the jungle with a male companion. The similarities largely stop here, as The Lost City subverts some of the tropes that Romancing the Stone utilizes, and has some clear differences in regards to the overall plot of the film that plays to the strengths of its two leads. Sure, the film mostly goes the way you would expect, but I was pleasantly surprised with a few key details (which I can't really get into without spoiling anything). It has more personality than a lot of major releases these days, and that truly is what elevates the film for me. It is fully aware of what it is, and it owns it so well. A lot of this could be that there hasn't been many great studio comedies as of late, but even still, this movie is a lot of fun, and will hopefully show some of the major studios that there is still an audience for movies like this.
The film centers on Lorraine Sage, an adventure writer of a long-running series who is kidnapped in order to help a wealthy man find a lost treasure. The cover model for her books, Alan, is determined to rescue her and show that he is more than just a pretty face. So much of the film's humor derives from the dynamic between these two characters, as Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum make for a surprisingly good match here. Bullock plays the intelligence of her character nicely and maintains that distinct charm she tends bring to her roles. Meanwhile Tatum is able to play around with the stereotypical meathead archetype and showcase his comedic abilities excellently. The two have great chemistry together, and play off each other so well. What particularly grabbed me with their characters is that they represent the traditional hero and damsel in distress, but with the genders flipped. Bullock is the smart, capable hero, while Tatum is more of the helpless sidekick. It's one of the few tropes that works in the film, mainly because it subverts what we typically see in other movies.
I also was impressed by the supporting cast, which is made up of actors who I am always happy to see in any movie. Daniel Radcliffe makes for a rather convincing villain, and continues to show that he has some serious range as an actor. He fully embraces the eccentricities of his character, and he is dialed into the film's energy nicely. Patti Harrison might have a smaller role in this film, but she makes every second of her screen time count. She is so talented, and almost every line she has here is hilarious. I sincerely hope that her career continues to thrive, as she is one of our best comedic actors working today. Of course, I have to bring up Brad Pitt's involvement for a moment, as he is very funny here, and how his character is used is much different than what I was expecting going into this. I won't spoil this here, but I will say that his scenes are definitely a highlight of the film. To me, the clearest standout from the film's supporting cast is Da'Vine Joy Randolph, who shines as Lorraine's literary agent. She plays the harried and high-strung nature of the character in a genuine way, and gets some of the film's biggest laughs. She deserves to be a star, and I hope this film will help more people recognize this.
The film does have some moments where it feels a little artificial, mainly in terms of the look of it. Certain moments have the almost saturated lighting that has become a staple of recent studio comedies, although it is not as much of an issue on the whole. In addition, it feels pretty obvious which scenes in the jungle were shot on location, and which were on a soundstage. This took me out of a couple of scenes, but it isn't nearly as bad as other recent mainstream films. While I do think that the film is funny, I do feel that the script could have used some more polishing in terms of plot structure. It does drag out a little in the second act, and it could have easily been tightened up to allow the film to flow a little better. In addition, there are some minor plot threads that I feel should have been expounded on further or cut entirely. It doesn't completely ruin the movie or anything, but it might have helped the film feel a bit more focused.
I definitely enjoyed The Lost City more than I was expecting, and it's the exact type of film that I have been wanting to see more of over the past few years. It's great to see a fun comedy with two bonafide movie stars on the big screen again, and I hope that it becomes enough of a hit to get studios to invest in more projects like this. It may not be the most perfect comedy ever, and it might not be the film that's going to singlehandedly change the current state of mainstream cinema, but it is at least a step in the right direction.