The Lost City: Meeting, Not Exceeding, by Tyler Smith

Aaron and Adam Nee’s The Lost City is one of those rare movies in which, though there isn’t really anything wrong with it, it still manages to fall short of being truly recommendable. Every word I can think of to describe the film is a synonym for “average”. Words like “adequate”, “satisfactory”, and “competent” come to mind. The film knows what it is and it achieves exactly that, never exceeding anybody’s expectations to become something truly exceptional. That’s hardly a glowing review, but, with as many cynical, intelligence-insulting misfires as one can find in theaters at any given time these days, perhaps it should be. There can be something comforting – even reassuring – about a film that does its job sufficiently. We get what we came for and then go home, our memory of the film quickly evaporating. But at least it was vaguely enjoyable while it lasted.

The story of The Lost City involves an uptight romance novelist named Loretta (Sandra Bullock) getting pulled into a treasure hunt against her will by a charming rich megalomaniac (Daniel Radcliffe). Loretta’s dim-witted cover model, Alan (Channing Tatum), travels to the remote island where she’s being kept, intending to save her and win her heart. As the two stumble through the treacherous island jungle, they begin to fall in love, realizing that they’re stronger together than apart. 

This type of story has been done countless times, perhaps most notably in films like The African Queen and Romancing the Stone, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t simple pleasures to be found within. The mismatched nature of the couple and the eventual overcoming of their differences is always a crowd-pleaser, provided the leads have the appropriate chemistry and the situation is believably dire. Thankfully, here, Bullock and Tatum develop an effortless rapport, playing off each other with ease, finding the smaller moments of connection in even the broadest setpieces. 

And, thankfully, many of those setpieces are organically incorporated into the story and handled efficiently. Too often, though, the filmmakers make the mistake of thinking that their audience is genuinely interested in the treasure hunt element of the story and, unfortunately, spend way too much time explaining the intricate details that should have remained simple window dressing. It’s a common mistake that you’ll find in middle-of-the-road action comedies, and it is one of the few genuine flaws in The Lost City.

None of that is to say that the film isn’t enjoyable. I spent much of the film with a smile on my face, but it should be noted that I only laughed out loud once. And I suppose if there were a perfect way to characterize a fine-but-forgettable comedy, that would be it: all smiles, few laughs. It truly is a shame. All the elements are there. If only the film had tried not merely to meet audience expectations but to surpass them, confounding the cliches and surprising us now and then, The Lost City would really be something worth seeing. As it is, despite the film being perfectly competent, I don’t recommend seeing it. Because you already have. Many times.

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