There was a time when original, high concept comedies with major Hollywood stars were a surefire bet for audience adoration and box office success. In the contemporary era though, the big-budget comedy has largely been relegated to streaming services. Aaron and Adam Nee are attempting to revive genre’s theatrical viability with The Lost City, an adventure comedy throwback that never quite manages to explore new territory.
Sandra Bullock stars as Loretta Sage, a novelist who would rather be crafting works fit for an academic journal than writing soft-core adventure erotica like “The Lost City of D”. When Loretta is kidnapped by Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), a wealthy and ruthless treasure hunter who believes her latest novel holds the key to discovering The Crown of Fire, her bumbling cover model Alan (Channing Tatum) must overcome his insecurities to rescue her. What ensues is an adventure rife with exploration, romance, and murder.
What’s notably absent from The Lost City‘s adventure though is a consistent sense of humor. Scenes that are supposed to shock the audience into laughter (like the eel sequence prominently showcased in the film’s marketing materials) are trite, outdated, and fail to make an impact. Meanwhile, the double entendres littered throughout the script are also tired and sound like nixed lines from 1951’s The African Queen. While there are a few moments that genuinely generate chuckles like when Loretta and Alan try to share a hammock, these scenes are few and far between.
Despite a lackluster script, the entire cast tries their hardest to elevate the material. Channing Tatum revives his fumbling persona from the 21 Jump Street franchise to play the effeminate role of Alan, and seems to be having the time of his life in doing so. Meanwhile, Sandra Bullock plays the straight-faced counterpart to Tatum’s shenanigans, creating great chemistry between the two in the process. Even Patti Harrison, who has a bit role as Loretta’s new intern, brings all her comedic ability to the table.
Unfortunately, the inherent talents of the cast are unable to fully rescue The Lost City‘s old-hat script and milquetoast directing. While The Lost City may not be the savior of the theatrical comedy, hopefully it will inspire studios to take more risks on the genre so that this generation can have its own Romancing the Stone.
The Silver Lining
The only person having more fun on screen than Channing Tatum is Daniel Radcliffe in his role as Fairfax, The Lost City‘s primary antagonist. It’s a role that’s against type for the Harry Potter actor, yet Radcliffe commits to his performance with a passionate fervor. As Fairfax, Radcliffe is able to project a menacing ardor while still maintaining his natural charisma. His work in The Lost City would make Radcliffe an ideal candidate for a villain role in a Guy Ritchie feature or the next Kingsman entry.
SXSW 2022 official selection, The Lost City, opens in theaters everywhere on March 25th.