Romance author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is kidnapped at the start of her latest book tour by an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who believes she knows the location of a lost treasure known as the Crown of Fire. Meanwhile, the cover model of her novels (Channing Tatum) sets off to rescue her with the help of a professional adventurer (Brad Pitt)...
'The Lost City' is not a remake of 'Romancing The Stone' nor its sequel, 'The Jewel of the Nile'. It does, however, try very hard to evoke them in tone and theme. Sandra Bullock's character is a fuddy-duddy writer of romance novels, much like Kathleen Turner's character. Check. There's an exotic location. Check again. There's a priceless treasure waiting for them at the end of this journey. There's romance, adventure, lots of freewheeling comedy, and there's good chemistry between the two leads and it's clocking in just shy of an hour and a half. Check and check again.
About three-quarters of the movie is Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum working their way through a relatively plodding script, pausing every once in a while for a highly structured comedic beat with some ad-lib moments interspersed throughout. Daniel Radcliffe, meanwhile, is acting out through his eyes and seems to be in constant danger of bursting a vein out of his head. Da'Vine Joy Randolph and Patti Harrison, both of whom play the agent and social media coordinator for Sandra Bullock's author, are left back in the city to try and figure out what they can do to rescue her, while Brad Pitt has an extended cameo as a competent rescuer who exits in the most cack-handed fashion - not on purpose, mind, but by the mere fact of sloppy and inept writing.
What you find throughout 'The Lost City' is a movie that is trying very, very hard to be something better. It wants to call back to all those lighthearted romantic comedy adventures of the '80s, the kind that Goldie Hawn et al excelled at, but the whole thing comes off like an average cover of a good song. It's completely fine, everyone involved is competent and knows what they're doing, and the intentions are honourable. Who doesn't love an action-comedy with romance thrown into the middle of it? Yet, 'The Lost City' just doesn't live up to the movies it's so ardently trying to match itself with. It doesn't have the same effortlessness, the comedy doesn't have the same off-the-cuff energy, and even though Channing Tatum are both gifted comedic actors, when put together they don't mix quite as well as you'd hope.
It's not that one is trying to outdo the other, as they're both capable of ceding to one another if it'll make things funnier, but it's simply that their very presence together feels off. Sure, you've got a role reversal in that Sandra Bullock is quite competent and knows what she's doing while Channing Tatum is the ditsy damsel in distress, but that's not enough. Sandra Bullock almost seems to be annoyed by Channing Tatum's presence throughout, while Channing Tatum is just playing a version of his '21 Jump Street' character again. Not only that, it falls into the trap of placing its funniest moments in the trailer and leaving little else to be enjoyed on screen.
It may be that expectations were simply too high for 'The Lost City', but it's a noble effort nonetheless. Studios - you can make sexy adventure comedies again, but just try to make something other than a lesser version of 'Romancing The Stone' because it's been done.