Gotta Find that D

The Lost City

Although they weren't the first movies to play on the adventuring, treasure-hunting film serial stories of the 1930s and 1940s, the Indiana Jones films certainly set the template. Foreign cities, stunning locales, plenty of traps and dangers, and yes, some very special treasures. The series helped to set a genre that plenty of other studios have tried to emulate, but few have managed to find their own voice and style enough to rise above, "like Indiana Jones but..."

One such film that managed to play in the genre but stake its own voice was Romancing the Stone, a 1984 action-comedy about a romance novelist and her hapless guide forced onto a treasure hunting adventure together. That film, starring Katleen Turner and Michael Douglas, was popular enough to not only make $115 Mil against $10 Mil at the Box Office. It's sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, wasn't ass successful but still did pretty well... but then the whole concept basically died. Further sequels never made it into production, nor did a reboot, and that was that.

The thing is that blending romance into an Indiana Jones-style caper works really well. Indy doesn't really do romance on his own (the ladies in his films are basically "Bond Girls", there for Indy to prove he's a man and then they're gone by the next film), but actually making the love story a central part of the film helps to elevate the female character in the movie, making the two treasure hunters equals in a way that never really happens in Indy's own movies. Sooner or later someone else was going to try and tap into that magic again.

That's where the 2022 action-comedy The Lost City comes in. The film stars Sandra Bullock as a romance novelist and Chaning Tatum as her helpless rescuer, forced to go on an adventure in search of treasure (with plenty of dangers along the way). Had this film come out 15 or so years ago it would have fit perfectly within the Romancing the Stone saga. As it is it certainly feels like a sequel in all but name and, damn, if it doesn't work just as well as those older films.

In the film our romance writer, Loretta Sage (Bullock), has been struggling to finish her latest novel, The Lost City of D, since the death of husband a few years prior. The book is overdue and her publisher, Beth Hatten (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), is over-leveraged against the book. Loretta slaps a half-asses ending on the novel and then gets dragged out on a book tour. The first stop, though, goes disastrously, though, when Loretta is forced to share the stage with the cover model use plays central hunk Dash on every book, Alan Caprison (Tatum). The two end up having an awkward mishap on stage, Alan falls off (losing his long, shaggy wig in the process), and Loretta flees.

Outside the hotel / conference center, Loretta is grabbed by a couple of goons working for Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), a billionaire on the hunt for the actual Lost City of D. The city was a real place that Loretta used as inspiration for her novel and, apparently, the fabled "Crown of Flames", which allegedly is a cascade of beautiful rubies, is buried there. Fairfax asks Loretta to help him, which she declines, so he kidnaps her and takes her with him anyway. This sets Alan (with the help of a fixer played by Brad Pitt) on a quest to recuse Loretta and get her back home, whatever it takes.

The Lost City is an action-comedy with a big emphasis on comedy. Most of the laughs are derived from the banter between the two leads. Tatum and Bullock have solid chemistry, bouncing off of each other really well, and that manages to make the film very funny even as it goes through a pretty linear and expected story. The film tries to build jokes outside of the two leads (such as making fun of Fairfax's name) but the movie really only shines when Bullock and Tatum are on screen.

The movie doesn't really stretch the acting chops of either actor; these are roles that the two can do, in a winning fashion, in their sleep. Bullock, for her part, has played roles like this for most of her career: the romantic lead, a little flighty but with a core strength and intelligence. Any time she's in a romantic comedy this is the performance she gives. It's good, but expected. Meanwhile Tatum has perfected his dumb guy comedy shtick since 2012's 21 Jump Street and it's the same performance here. You could pretty much take his character out of the Jump Street films and slap him in here and it would be the exact same character as Tatum's Alan. It's fun, and watchable, but nothing new.

Whether or not that matters really depends on how much you want something new. The film bounces these two expected characters off each other in a pairing we haven't seen before (this being the first romantic comedy for Bullock and Tatum together) and it does work. These two are likable together, even when they're sniping. And it is refreshing to see a older woman get paired up with a younger man (generally it's a 60 year old man with a much younger woman, and this is the rare pairing that even slightly treads in the other direction). You could easily see these two making more films like this (even if they aren't sequels) just due to the easy way they work together.

The movie, though, doesn't really stretch them, or anything or anyone else, much at all. The plot lines outside the two leads fizzle, the characters beyond them (and a sometimes scenery-chewing performance from Radcliffe, who is otherwise under used) don't have much to do, and the action really isn't anything to speak of. This is a vehicle for Bullock and Tatum and it lives and dies by the metric. If there were other leads in these roles, this film would absolutely flounder, brought down under a weak story and silly writing.

In fact, the film doesn't even really find depth or growth for anyone until the end, when the treasure (the mystery of which I won't spoil) is found. Then the film manages to find some pathos and let the leads grown and develop real romantic chemistry. It's in these final moments that the movie you really wanted to see comes through. It's watchable up to that point, but really good right before it ends. I guess that's a great place to leave the film, and if a sequel happens maybe they can build from that in the future.

In less charismatic hands The Lost City would be completely forgettable. It's only because it has Bullock and Tatum that it works. The biggest knock against the film is that it takes the Romancing the Stone formula and doesn't really do much with it. The greatest thing that can be said though is that, despite its flaws, The Lost City is still a silly and fun movie. I don't hate it, and for those looking for cheesy popcorn I'd absolutely recommend it. Just know the kind of movie you're getting so you aren't disappointed.