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Lost City Review–When Romance and Comedy Fail

Story needs more than witticism and a neat idea. Why Lost City fails to deliver on its promise.

If you’ve been dying to get back into watching movies in a theatre, you might want to skip The Lost City* a romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock (as Loretta Sage) and Channing Tatum (as Alan).

I had such high hopes for this. It’s Romance, right? It has a great premise–romance novelist and her cover model go on adventures that mimic what she writers. Great names, right? And then, something, I’m not sure quite what, happened.

Spoilers abound, in 3 … 2… 1

It actually starts out quite well. Lots of character identification, humorous, and if you can suspend disbelief for the romance novel version of a Harrier jet (I had to pat my husband’s shoulder and go, “There, there.”) you’re thinking that you’re set. I was actually considering cosplaying Loretta–cause nothing says serious author like a hot-pink sequin onesie, and let’s face it, my husband was born to cosplay Fabio.

I’ve liked Sandra Bullock’s other works–from Demolition Man* to Miss Congeniality* (the first one anyway) to Speed*. And Jupiter Ascending* is still one of my favorite works, so Channing Tatum, yay! And I also think that Brad Pitt was in this–checks; yes, yes he was–so this should have been a sure thing, right? For an instant I got a bit of a love triangle vibe but then it went away. I got the vibe because Pitt’s character was everything that Tatum’s wasn’t and I was beginning to think Tatum’s touchy-feeliness was really what was throwing me off. Nope. Turns out that wasn’t it.

So, what was it? I knew going into this that it was going to be quirky, that it wasn’t meant to be serious. It is, after all, a comedy. Thing was that I don’t think that I laughed once after the first thirty minutes or so, and that was even with the help of an adult beverage.

Romances rely on chemistry and/or taboo. Even romantic comedies need something. Well, apparently the producers/writers thought that what this romantic comedy really needed was just a bunch of witty what-if’s.

As in…

What if we spoofed a romance writer falling in love with her cover model?
What if we made the cover model really touchy-feely, and not at all like the character he’s supposed to be?
What if we throw in an actual hero that wasn’t the cover model?
What if we cast him as the “boy” with the beard (yeah, that joke was in there; good on Radcliffe for being able to poke fun at himself).

I imagine the studio guys having a convo like this:

“I know, I know, guys. We need Harry Potter to play the bad guy.”

“Yup, that’s it. You’re brilliant dude. High five.”

“I mean think of it: Harry as the bad guy.”

“You can’t go wrong with that, guys. You really can’t.”

“We’re geniuses, you realize that, right?”

Thing is, I hear these sorts of “witty” ideas all the time, whether on social media ‘discussions’ or on panels at conventions. They usually end with someone going “I’d read the hell out of that.” And I usually bite my tongue at this point because the inner monologue consists of stuff that should be redacted.

Here’s the nice version of said redacted inner monologue instead:

Unfortunately, witticisms do not a story make. Story needs a few more things, like a coherent plot (even if it’s a romance) and characters with–I don’t know (I do, that’s sarcasm)–chemistry! Maybe! It’s not enough to match up two things that don’t go together just because it might make a funny. Weird, I know, but really, it’s an actual thing.

The entire movie had a feel like all the romantic comedy boxes were checked, yet despite this, it failed to deliver an actual story. Was there an HEA? Well, yes, I think so. Problem was, about two-thirds of the way through I just didn’t care about any of it.

When the big reveal happened I shrugged. They didn’t bother to emphasize any of the things that went into the big reveal (hint, there’s no actual jeweled crown) or even the stakes.

At no time did I think that anyone was in danger of any kind. And that’s not necessary in this genre. I do remember the same type of movie working quite well in George of the Jungle. But it most certainly does not work here.

The best thing about The Lost City turns out to be that it’s actually quite forgettable.

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Movies, Romance

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