When did Hollywood decide that all globetrotting adventures had to be extremely stupid?
In the 1980s, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone were no chicken soup for the idiot’s soul. Not even the much newer National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage.
However, silly new movie The Lost City joins Uncharted, Jungle Cruise and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw in the daunting trend of embracing a once great genre with sickening humor without thrills or grandeur demean and over-reliance on star power.
Running time: 112 minutes. Rated PG-13 (Violence and some gory images, salacious material, partial nudity and speech.) In cinemas.
The wasted celebrity here is Sandra Bullock, who plays a widowed romance novelist not unlike her aggressive, pseudo-feminist character from Miss Congeniality. Her name is Loretta Sage, she no longer cares about men, wants to stay out of the limelight and prefers to drink chardonnay in the tub.
Too bad she’s forced to tour with her dimwitted Fabio-esque cover model Alan (Channing Tatum), who rips his shirt off on stage to please the ladies.
After a chat on a book tour, she is kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) and the film goes nuts. The smarmy Gent realizes that her books’ setting, the tropical Lost City of D, is real and holds hidden treasure. He needs them – and chloroform – to help him find the prey.
Directors Aaron and Adam Nee’s film lies frustratingly on the tarmac of comedy for two hours while we, the angry passengers, wait for takeoff. Some valuable jokes land, and the random safari scenes, where Bullock peels leeches from Tatum’s butt or briefly runs through the trees with a Brad Pitt cameo, are annoying and obvious.
The funniest characters in the movie have nothing to do with Loretta and Alan’s island antics. Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays Beth, a weary literary agent who can’t take it anymore, and Patti Harrison is aging social media intern Allison. Her modern sense of humor resonates far better than Bullock and Tatum, who remake 1998’s abysmal “Six Days Seven Nights” with the tearful Anne Heche and Harrison Ford.
Tatum, who is most charming when it appears he’s improvising, has the duo’s best line when he calls pro-wife Loretta “Gloria Seinfeld.”
Bullock starts out irritable and then gets emotional, a familiar character arc she knows as well as her social security number.
But it’s Radcliffe’s part that illustrates Lost City’s many weaknesses. Through no fault of the actor, his Abigail isn’t realistically evil enough or offbeat enough (à la Will Ferrell’s Mugatu in Zoolander) to cling to – just as the film itself uncomfortably blends action and comedy into a beige mush.
As skeptical as I am about a 79-year-old Harrison Ford returning as Indiana Jones, he could be the last hope of this limping genre.