Before walking into the theater to see The Lost City (2022), my thought was: there is no way this is the only film that has had this title. Surely, there is another motion picture out there that has utilized this phrase. As it turns out, I was right. My first instinct was that there would be some corny, 1930s action flick in the vein of the multiple Tarzan films from that decade (there are several) or King Kong (1933). Sure enough, you have 1935s The Lost City. According to its description on the International Movie Database (IMDb), it is about, “An evil scientist [that] plots to take over the world from his base in Africa, where he has invented a machine that can cause earthquakes.” I am not sure where the words “lost,” “city,” or even “the” come into a plot of this kind, but I have not seen the film, so who knows? Neither have I viewed the 2005 movie of the same title, with a star-studded cast with the likes of Bill Murray, Dustin Hoffman, and Andy Garcia. Again, IMDb is helpful. It seems with that one, given its setting in 1950s Havana, Cuba, they were going for something more grounded in reality, like, “Oh, crap, we just lost that city (country) to communism.” Anyway, this is a long way of explaining why sometimes, even when you are writing in the year in which a film premiers, you have to put those numbers behind the title. This latest one has nothing to do with those others, though is perhaps more akin to its 1935 cousin.
In The Lost City (2022), Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is one of those trashy romance novel authors, the type of books you see on supermarket shelves with the long-haired muscle man and the adoring damsel looking up at him. As she is writing, she imagines herself as her damsel, Angela, this time tied up next to her long-haired muscle man Dash McMahon (Channing Tatum). However, she is frustrated. We see her look at the serious work her deceased husband did as an archaeologist, and understand that she is unfulfilled. As she pictures the end of her latest book, she thinks what she has farfetched and deletes it all. Her publicist, Beth Hatten (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), is after Loretta for a conclusion, her repeated calls reminding the writer of several impending deadlines. With a sigh of resignation, Loretta pushes through the last words for The Lost City of D, and now it is time for the book tour. For the first stop, they dress her in a tight fitting, pink sequined jumper, which is not at all her style, and send her out on stage. This is not the only bit of discomfiture for her. She must share the platform with the person who poses as Dash McMahon, real name Alan Caprison, who leans in a little too hard into his role. At the same time, he clearly has a crush on Loretta, which she also finds annoying. As she attempts to dodge his advances after their disastrous appearance, she ends up getting into a car she believes to be for her to take her to the next event. This turns out to be owned by Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), one of the heirs to the vast Fairfax family fortune and who comes from a set of brothers who all have names they think are gender neutral. While his brother Leslie has become a media mogul, he has gotten into antiquities, and he believes Loretta’s book offers clue to a real-life city of D (please try to ignore the innuendo) where he hopes to find a bejeweled treasure known as “The Crown of Fire,” and forcefully insists that she help him find it. By force, I mean he kidnaps her and flies her to an island in the Atlantic where he has set up an archaeological dig. Using threats with men with guns, he gets her to translate a bit of ancient text from this made-up civilization, which she can do because her husband happened to be an expert on the subject. Also, she did not major in romance writing in college. While she is held captive, Alan and Beth begin trying to figure out how to locate their missing writer. The police are unwilling to help as there has not been enough time passed to file a missing person’s report, but they do suggest that they use Loretta’s global position system (GPS) on her phone to figure out her location. Alan also remembers a former Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) member named Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) with whom Alan did a meditation course. Jack has the ability to track down anyone, anywhere, and get them back. Eager to help, Alan gets Jack to agree to meet him at the island, while Beth decides to fly there on her own. Alan and Jack are able to rescue Loretta, but Jack is shot in the process. Now they are on the run through the jungle with Abigail’s mercenaries following them, getting eaten by leaches, and dealing with Alan’s eczema whenever he gets wet. Even without these life-or-death situations, and her ridiculous clothing, this is not Loretta bailiwick given the company. Yet, they manage to make it to a nearby village and begin forming a bond along the way, thanks to Alan’s persistence. Unfortunately, the local authorities are in Abigail’s employ, and they hand Loretta over to him. Alan’s second rescue attempt results in him getting captured, too, and they are forced to continue what Abigail desires. When they reach the tomb where “The Crown of Fire” is reputed to rest, they find that it was made of simple red shells and not the jewels Abigail expected. Furious, he orders his men to put Alan and Loretta in the tomb together and begin making their way out as a nearby volcano begins to erupt. Luckily, a sympathetic henchman leaves a crowbar with them, and they are able to get out in time. When they emerge from the water, they find Beth, apparently with part of the island’s navy, ready to take them on board. Abigail is arrested, and Alan, Beth, and Loretta go off on vacation.
I was slightly disappointed when, as Alan and Loretta surfaced following their escape towards the end of The Lost City(2022), my research told me that this location is actually in the Dominican Republic and not Costa Rica as I hoped. There is a tiny skerry near which they are picked up by Beth’s commandeered boat, and it looked suspiciously like a place I snorkeled by off Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Oh well. No matter the geographical location, I have probably failed, as usual, to describe the humor of this surprisingly funny film. Actually, I show probably not be surprised. Sandra Bullock’s comedic roles are usually her best, in my humble opinion, and she is great at physical comedy. I like her dramatic parts as well. Okay, I just like Sandra Bullock. On the other hand, it was good to see Daniel Radcliffe as a villain. Make all the Harry Potter jokes you want, he did a great job as Abigail Fairfax. Finally, Channing Tatum is sneaky good as well. He has done action as well as comedy, and he basically plays the same person in both of them. What is great about this character is that it turns a lot of these conventions on their head. In this film, he is playing a hapless model, who plays an action star, but who ends up having to do a lot of things his fake character does in Loretta’s novels. The film has a lot of fun with this concept.
It is with Alan in The Lost City (2022) that I would like to devote the Catholic portion of this review. He says something interesting about expectations that I think is applicable to the faith life. At one point, Loretta opens up about her insecurities. Her once fulfilling career helping her husband uncover ancient secrets turned into a life of writing novels she increasingly thinks are beneath her dignity. Still, one has to pay the bills somehow. When she winges about the things that she has done since her husband died, Alan says some prescient things for somebody who names everyone in his phone by their first name and occupation for their surname. His first comment is that it must be scarry to face a future without being with the expected person. At some point, there is going to come some difficulties with which we must cope. God is always there to hold our hands through these times, and being open to Him can lead you into some wonderful new paths that might not have opened if whatever bad thing had not occurred. Alan also tells Loretta that people love her work, and that is something she should not take for granted. I can identify with this sentiment because, like Loretta (and I am sure many can relate), I am my own worst critic. Again, this is where God comes in more than handy. If we could only see ourselves in a quarter of the way He sees us, we would be transformed. Faith is largely about the process of getting close to this mark. And this is why Alan is a blessing for Loretta. He sees the best in her, and is forgiving of her faults. At its most basic, this is a lot like how God sees us.
Anyway, back to the hilarity that is The Lost City (2022). Well, maybe “hilarity” is too strong a word. It is pretty funny, and outside of the innuendo, there is nothing objectionable in the film. My only real axe to grind is with the meditation scene in the credits. It is meant to be comedic as a supposedly dead Jack shows up at the end. For this Catholic, it gets into the new-age “spirituality” that seems to be sweeping far too many up into a whole heap of nothing. We have called such things for what they are for centuries, and I have seen no reason to change. Then again, I am a structured kind of guy. At any rate, there is some good in this movie.
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