It’s an uphill battle getting butts into theater seats. Outside of leaving the couch to see “Spider-Man” or “The Batman,” the perception is that COVID-weary audiences would rather stay home and binge-watch TV. “The Lost City,” a romantic, screwball comedy featuring A-listers Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe and, oh yeah, Brad Pitt, aims to show us what we’ve been missing.
Though “The Lost City” never equals “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Romancing the Stone,” “King Solomon’s Mines” or other treasure hunts that Hollywood cranked out in the 1980s, this throwback compensates with joyous excitement.
Bullock stars as romance novelist Loretta Sage, whose exotic, globetrotting bestsellers all feature a dashing hero known as Dash. He doesn’t exist, except on sexy book covers and publicity tours, where the musclebound, shirtless Dash is played by Alan, a not-too-bright model embodied with sweet sexiness and a Fabio wig by an up-for-anything Tatum.
Alan would like to prove he’s every bit as heroic as the fictional Dash. He gets his chance when Loretta is kidnapped by nut job billionaire Abigail Fairfax, played by Radcliffe with all the crazy confusion inherent in a name like that. Abigail believes that the lost city Loretta invented for her new novel actually exists, along with the Crown of Fire, a diamond headdress he covets.
As soon as Abigail sweeps Loretta off to a tropical island (the Dominican Republic provided the location), Alan runs to the rescue with no idea how to do it. Alan pines for Loretta, who still grieves the death of her archaeologist husband who thought the lost city wasn’t such a fantasy.
It’s apparent that sibling directors Adam and Aaron Nee subscribe to a screenwriting approach akin to throwing every idea they could lift from other, better movies into the air and hoping that at least a few of them will land in the right place to evoke laughs and thrills.
The actors in the movie have enough charm to cover up the holes in a leaky plot. Bullock brings humor and heart to a role a lesser actress would let slide into a sight gag about a city girl traipsing through the jungle in heels and an iridescent jumpsuit.
And Tatum, the ultimate good sport in a nude scene that covers his body in leeches, radiates a big-lug appeal that makes us root for Alan even when Loretta insults him as a walking body-wash commercial. She’s not wrong, but his yearning for Loretta rings true. When the silliness gets too much, these little things count.
Tatum even survives a hot cameo from Pitt as Jack Trainer, a former Navy SEAL who assists the jealous Alan in the Loretta rescue mission. When the smitten Loretta asks Jack how he got so handsome, Pitt spices his retort with goofball snap, “My father was a TV weatherman.”
These are the jokes, folks, in a movie with such a puppy-dog eagerness to please that you want to pet it instead of pointing out its faults. “The Lost City” reminds us of the lost pleasures of big-screen escapism, the kind that slaps a smile on your face that lasts all the way home.