The Lost City review: treasures are buried in Sandra Bullock's overloaded adventure flick

Two endlessly likable leads — and one spirited superstar cameo — can’t strike gold in this treasure hunt.

The Lost City
(Image: © Paramount Pictures)

What to Watch Verdict

A pair of American Sweethearts are dulled-down gems in this dazzle-free cape


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    An "I'm just happy to see them" check-in with two of Hollywood's best go-for-silly stars

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    A prize Brad Pitt cameo, with the actor at his most self-referentially studly


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    It’s nearly impossible to mine any real romance from this adventure rom-com

You’ve seen The Lost City before. No, not just Romancing the Stone, the 1984 Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner adventure romance that The Lost City’s directors, brothers Aaron and Adam Nee, frequently and flagrantly pull from. But you’ve seen actual copy-and-pasted aspects of this movie before. 

Sandra Bullock as a prim yet prickly fish-out-of-water professional (The Proposal, Miss Congeniality), dealing with grief and loneliness (While You Were Sleeping)? Check. Channing Tatum as a himbo ham-steak with a heart of gold and a heap of dance skills (the Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street franchises)? Check. Brad Pitt roguishly snacking whilst looking impossibly blond and beautiful (Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, you get the picture)? Check and check. 

It’s a predictable caper, but one you’ll mindlessly bop along to even during its most familiar beats. Like Romancing the Stone before it, The Lost City centers on a romance novelist, Loretta Sage (Bullock), who is grieving the death of her archaeologist husband and is dissatisfied writing softcore page-turners when she really wants to pen historical academia. Her days of dodging calls from her publisher (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and drinking chardonnay in the bathtub get a much-needed jolt when, whilst on a book tour with her dim-witted, Fabio-esque cover model Alan (Tatum), she gets kidnapped. 

Her captor is Abigail Fairfax (a perpetually game Daniel Radcliffe), a delusional billionaire who wants to find the treasure-filled "lost city" on which Sage based her latest book, needing the author to decode an ancient map to point him to its location on a remote island. A dumb and dubious premise, sure, but it gives Radcliffe an always-welcome excuse to be delightfully deranged. Even better, it gifts viewers that campy cameo from Pitt as Jack Trainer, a former Navy Seal hired by Alan to help him rescue Loretta. 

Armed with blond dreadlocks, tattooed muscles, New Age mysticism and a twinkle in his eye, Pitt is clearly having a blast in this souped-up cameo, as at ease taking down a pack of gun-toting bodyguards as he is making Bullock’s Loretta swoon like one of her romance-novel readers. He’s the kind of brains-and-brawns man her books should be filled with and sparks crackle between the two characters. 

The problem is that he’s not her love interest here — Tatum is. That’s no disrespect to the actor, who brings all of the screwball silliness, easy charm and human golden-retriever sweetness in his arsenal. And it’s no shade to the casting — Bullock and Tatum are two actors who know their way around both heart and hijinks. There’s also an admitted thrill seeing the actress nonchalantly paired with a suitor almost 20 years her junior. 

There’s enough kindling that it should work, but the fire never gets roaring between them, despite the actors’ willingness and the movie’s many deployments of romantic fanfiction tropes to conjure up chemistry: a steamy tango, some bratty enemies-to-lovers banter, an only-one-bed (in this case, a hammock) scenario. Even a scene featuring a butt-naked Alan, Bullock face-to-face with Channing’s Tatum, can’t ignite any real heat between the characters. 

Any sprightliness their pairing could have is bogged down by the absurdity of the script, worked over by four writers — the Nee brothers (who also wrote and directed Band of Robbers and The Last Romantic) alongside Oren Uziel and Dana Fox — overflowing like the cartoonish volcano that looms in the background of all of the movie’s jungle shenanigans. (From a visual standpoint, graphics look like a Disney Parks attraction meets an old episode of Legends of the Hidden Temple.) It feels leagues longer than its 92 minutes, especially following the front-loaded, Brad Pitt-filled fun of its start. 

But there’s still fun worth discovering: Bullock flexing her physical comedy muscles in a preposterous glitter jumpsuit; Tatum bromantically enamored with Pitt’s strapping swashbuckler; chuckle-worthy bits involving Oscar Nuñez and a goat. You just have to do some digging to find it.

The Lost City is playing exclusively in movie theaters starting March 25 in the US and April 15 in the UK.

Christina Izzo

Christina Izzo is the Deputy Editor of My Imperfect Life. More generally, she is a writer-editor covering food and drink, travel, lifestyle and culture in New York City. She was previously the Features Editor at Rachael Ray In Season and Reveal, as well as the Food & Drink Editor and chief restaurant critic at Time Out New York. 

When she’s not doing all that, she can probably be found eating cheese somewhere.