Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover Model – The Lost City (2022)

This is not my typical go-to and, had I not seen the trailer, I likely would have glossed right over its release, but The Lost City knows exactly what it’s trying to be and plays to the strengths of its stars with great effectiveness.

A down-on-her-luck romance novelist, stuck mourning the death of her husband, accidentally stumbles across the secret of an ancient civilization and gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire who’s set on finding the treasure. When the cops can’t help, it’s up to her publicist and her novels’ cover model to hatch a crazy rescue plan.

Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum have great comedic chemistry

Sure, it’s ridiculous if you think about it too much but if you can get on board with it beforehand then it works out fine. I hadn’t seen either of Aaron and Adam Nee’s first two features (The Last Romantic and Band of Robbers) so there were no expectations on my end, heading in, but I came out of the theater excited to see what they do next (Masters of the Universe).

Seth Gordon got story credit while Oren Uziel and Dana Fox both got screenplay credit, but Aaron and Adam both worked on the screenplay as well. Sometimes it’s too many cooks in the kitchen kind of deal, but they found the right balance to keep the story moving at a reasonable pace while still providing enough time for the audience to get the kind of one-on-one time with the characters they’re invested in. A big part of what makes the humor work is the situation these characters are in but, beyond that, the humor works as well as it does here because the character writing provided a substantial amount of depth to their humanity. It would have been very easy to write them directly to their punchlines (and they did in a few cases), but the character development makes it worthwhile.

It was great to see Sandra Bullock getting to show her comedic strengths again. She has had success in her dramatic roles (Oscar-winner), but she has a unique charm that lights her up when she plays in comedies. When we meet her character, Loretta, she’s still grief-stricken over the death of her husband. So, Bullock still gets to show her dramatic side while also showcasing her adept physical comedy skills.

Channing Tatum plays her primary opposite number, Alan, who struggles to separate himself from the character that adorns the cover of Loretta’s romance novels. There’s a natural inclination to see him as vapid, and that’s the point, but he’s proven himself as a very capable dramatic actor, so there’s a little bit of role reversal in the character foundations. Tatum has excellent comedic timing and understands how to wield it, especially when it comes to incorporating the kind of behaviors and reactions that aren’t typically associated with the handsome and muscular love interest.

Daniel Radcliffe is a strong villain

There was still a lot of meat on the bone for the supporting roles and it attracted some A-list names. Brad Pitt likely has his pick of the litter when it comes to roles and it says a lot about the project that he wanted to hop on as the highly skilled, but eccentric and dreamy, Jack Trainer who gets brought into the story to help with the rescue. Pitt is a very gifted comedic actor when he wants to and it was nice to see him let his hair down (literally and figuratively). Daniel Radcliffe has had quite the eclectic career journey since Harry Potter ended and it’s been a lot of fun watching him let loose. He too has a penchant for comedy and playing the billionaire, Abigail Fairfax, who will go to extreme lengths to locate a long-hidden treasure is right up his alley. The nature of the character doesn’t lend itself to the same kind of humor we get from the other characters but playing the eccentric villain is always fun and he does it in style.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays the publicist to Bullock’s Loretta

Even though it’s a little bit of a sidekick role, Da’Vine Joy Randolph made her presence felt as Loretta’s publicist who goes above and beyond in the rescue effort. Even in a supporting role, you can tell she’s a boss and it is very rare that she’s not in command when she’s on-screen. The character wasn’t written to land the kind of humor that we got out of the rest of the cast, but somebody had to ground the whole thing and I think Randolph did a great job with that. There’s a reason 2021 was crazy busy for her and she’s got three other projects in post-production lined up for 2022, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for those.

This movie came along at just the right time where it was able to find its own space comfortably and didn’t have to worry about proving itself. The Lost City knows very well what it is and so does the cast, so that makes for a fun adventure that doesn’t feel like a put-on.

Recommendation: See it for the cast having a lot of fun on a ridiculous adventure.

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