Lost in Stupidity – THE LOST CITY

By Maribeth Thueson

Once upon a time, Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) researched ancient cultures and languages with her archeologist husband. But now, five years after his death, she writes romance novels with a  jungle setting inspired by their research. Loretta’s editor sends her on a book tour to promote her latest novel, along with the cover model who poses as the book’s hero, Dash. Loretta’s not happy about this; she thinks the model, Alan, is vain and empty-headed, and she would rather be home than facing an audience of fans who are only there to salivate over Alan/“Dash.” Channing Tatum plays Alan to the hilt; with a wig of flowing blond locks and a puffy shirt, he’s a parody of Fabio. 

When Loretta is kidnapped by eccentric billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who thinks she can help him find an ancient treasure called the “Crown of Fire” on a tropical Atlantic island, Alan wants to rescue her. Unfortunately, he has no skills. But he knows a guy – Jack Trainor (played with elan by Brad Pitt), who has flowing blond locks for real, and is super competent, super skilled, and super handsome. (Loretta: Why are you so handsome? Jack: My dad was a weatherman.) That doesn’t mean he can complete the mission, though, thanks to Alan’s well-meaning interference. Alan has to become his own bumbling sort of hero as he and Loretta work together to escape from Fairfax and his henchmen.

If this sounds an awful lot like Romancing the Stone (1984), it is, but stupider. At least in that movie the heroine had to contend with drug dealers, which are an actual thing. In The Lost City, the characters are cartoonish, not even rising to the level of stereotype, and the ruins on the island look like some vague mish-mash of Mayan or Aztec architecture with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Even worse are the stereotypes around the romance genre. The book editor (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) says that romance is the top-selling genre in publishing, which it is, but no author would be sent on a book tour with a cover model the way Loretta and Alan are; most cover models are anonymous, and romance readers aren’t vapid idiots. At least the writers made Bullock’s character educated and intelligent.

Bullock and Tatum redeem this mess simply by being funny, and there are a lot of laughs from these two pros. Just watching Bullock clamber onto a barstool while wearing a skin-tight sequined purple jumpsuit is almost worth the price of admission. Bullock and Tatum work well together, but there’s no real heat until they temporarily escape the jungle and wind up in the local town. Music is playing on the plaza, Tatum takes Bullock in his arms to dance, and all of a sudden, it’s sexy time, because Tatum has moves. (Remember Magic Mike?) 

The rest of the cast does their best with the material. Daniel Radcliffe is delightfully daffy as the billionaire, Randolph is a forceful presence as she tries to get local law enforcement to take an interest in the kidnapping, and Brad Pitt is . . . well, Brad Pitt. 

But the charms of the cast are not enough for me to recommend this movie. I’m all for adventure, comedy, and wacky situations – and there’s actually a lovely message at the end –  but is it too much to ask for smart writing, too? Some more in-depth research into archaeology and the romance genre could have yielded a movie with laughs, romance, wit, and realism.

The Lost City is now playing only in theaters.

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