Although it was easy to miss while it was happening, it’s clear now that Sandra Bullock has been slowly but surely pulling away from acting. Bullock, who was pretty much good for at least one movie every year between 1992 and 2009, has been spacing out her appearances in the 2010s while she raised her kids. Now, she’s announced that The Lost City will be her final starring role for a good while so she can spend more time with her family.
On the surface, the film fits right in with the rest of her filmography, which has featured mostly broadly appealing movies. Bullock stars as romance author Loretta Sage, who has grown tired of writing her series about Dash McMahon, especially since people have become much more interested in the cover model hired to depict the hunk, Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), than her.
That is, everybody except Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), a billionaire who believes that Loretta and her late archaeologist husband discovered the location of a lost city in their research. Fairfax kidnaps her and takes her to a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s up to Alan, Loretta’s agent Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), and a very famous movie star in an extended cameo to rescue Loretta.
Written and directed by the brother team of Aaron and Adam Nee, with help from co-writers Oren Uziel and Dana Fox, the film is very much a tale of two halves. During the set-up half of the film, laughs and even a bit of emotion come easily as the characters and the ridiculous plot are established. The first half also includes a hilarious turn by that very famous movie star — Brad Pitt — as an expert in pulling off high-stakes rescues.
Unfortunately, the second half of the film fails to live up to the first as the filmmakers go down a series of rabbit holes that are neither funny nor thrilling. The premise of the film is supposed to put Loretta and Alan at odds at all times, but they wind up being equally clueless, defusing any narrative tension. Anyone hoping for an updated version of Romancing the Stone will be disappointed, as the romantic angle between the two of them doesn’t work either.
The film also does a pretty bad job at making its location in an island jungle believable. Using what appears to be a combination of sets on a back lot and CGI, most of the film looks and feels fake. Even the scenes where it’s clear they’re actually outside have a veneer of falsity. It’s not a surprise they went that direction in the time of comic book movies, but the lack of effort into making the scenes feel like they’re in a real location is disappointing.
Both Bullock and Tatum are game for whatever the filmmakers throw their way, but each of them has been much funnier elsewhere in their careers. Bullock maintains the relatable appeal that she’s had in most of her movies, but she can’t quite put the story over the top. Tatum pokes fun at the idea that he’s just known for his physique, but his performance still winds up being one-note.
The Lost City is a middling adventure comedy that could’ve used a lot more of both genres. If this is to be Bullock’s last starring role for a while (she has a small role in the upcoming Bullet Train), it’s too bad it had to be in a film that doesn’t live up to its — or her — potential.
The Lost City opens in theaters on March 25.