If ever a time needed Daniel Radcliffe as a suave billionaire villain, this is it. The Lost City is just the romp we need. It is a triumph for Radcliffe, but also for Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum and even the scene-stealing Brad Pitt. Where the film really scores is in somehow resuscitating the adventure romcom for the 2020s. And it hits just the right daft note, a charming antidote to all the difficult and disturbing stuff swirling about.
Don’t imagine The Lost City as a mere rehash of genre clichés from Romancing the Stone, or the Indiana Jones franchise. No, it’s resolutely 21st century – even to the point of its female lead being older than the male – and enjoyably self-mocking. The exposition gives us the fun with gender stereotypes that is Channing Tatum’s performance. He is the closest thing to a damsel in distress on show, skilled and hilarious as Alan, a himbo model for book covers. The books in question being those of adventure novelist Loretta Sage (the wonderful, sharp Bullock). She has struggled after losing her husband, and seems set to abandon her writing and become a recluse.
Then Radcliffe – the wealthy and unprincipled Abigail (a gender-neutral name, he claims) Fairfax – has Loretta kidnapped and taken to a remote jungle island. His evil plan is to use her archaeological and translating skills to help him unearth an ancient treasure. Alan and Loretta’s Editor Beth (Da’ Vine Joy Randolph) set out to rescue her. Alan, hopeless but besotted with the gruff author, recruits his meditation guru Jack Trainer (Pitt, in a superb parodic cameo). The contrast between the buff but inept model and the real action hero is comedy gold, and there are some brilliantly choreographed fight and flight scenes.
Eventually Alan and Loretta flee Fairfax’s clutches, and the film follows their entertaining escapades through the jungle. The hazards are many – including Loretta’s purple sequined jumpsuit which is difficult to conceal from pursuers. Bit by bit the disenchanted Loretta regains her mojo. She is motivated by the archaeological quest for the legendary treasure of the Lost City. And there’s a volcano about to erupt. But of course there is a parallel journey – the Hepburn/ Tracy, Shrek/ Donkey dynamic between Loretta and Alan. An odd couple, but we like them.
The engaging leads are great fun, their chemistry palpable. The film floats along on a raft of witty quips – on gender, Loretta’s misanthropy, and Alan’s hunky but dim persona. A fast ride through awesome locations and unobtrusive CGI, the narrative races to a dramatic climax. The search for treasure takes a surprising twist, taking the wind out of Fairfax’s sails. In the torrent of gags, there are a few misfires, such as Joy Randolph’s hyperbolic character. But ultimately the quality of the talent involved makes for an early summer cinematic treat.
Screened at Eden Court, Inverness and at cinemas nationwide