★★★★ - STUFF
- Bullock and Tatum spark, but Pitt sets this action-comedy alight -
Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has lost her mojo.
Having struggled to finish writing her latest book, she has no appetite for the ensuing tour.
However, her ongoing globetrotting romantic adventures of Dr Angela Lovemore and Dash McMahon still attract a fervent, passionate audience, even if critics regard the 20-strong series as “fake history at its worst” or “cheap, vapid, lady fantasies”.
It’s not even a career Loretta wanted to pursue, it was just that she couldn’t find takers for more academic takes on ancient Central and South American history. Spicing things up with nefarious villains, ever-present danger, “coital reverie” and a bare-chested Dash on every cover has proved to be a roaring success. Although, since her archaeologist husband died five years ago, she has retreated more and more from any kind of public existence.
So the prospect of a close encounter with an army of admirers fills her with dread, especially when her publicist informs her, that despite her insistence, the tour will also feature the series’ cover model Alan Caprison.
Despite Loretta promising “no grumpy face, big words or long academic talks”, the first session quickly descends into chaos, culminating in Loretta announcing that she plans to kill off Dash, before accidentally catching Alan’s wig in her smartwatch.
Heartbroken that this might also spell the end of his career, Alan lashes out. “You’re like a human mummy,” he says of her reclusiveness. “You could be out visiting ancient Greece.”
But before she can pick apart such declarations, Loretta finds herself being whisked off to an undisclosed location by a group of burly men.
Turns out, she’s now the “guest” of media scion Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe). Convinced that he’s narrowed down the location of the real Crown of Fire, the MacGuffin in Loretta’s latest tome, he now needs her help to decipher a piece of parchment he’s sure will pinpoint its exact resting place. While she’s resistant, he’s impatient. The volcano on Isla Hundida has “a bad case of indigestion”, one that will likely soon result in burying any last hope of finding the Crown.
Little do either of them know though that Alan has already embarked on a rescue mission.
What follows is a hilarious screwball adventure-comedy that will evoke memories for certain generations of both Romancing the Stone (especially with its use of ‘80s hits like Spandau Ballet’s True and Pat Benatar’s Shadows of the Night) and Nim’s Island.
Co-directors and writers Adam and Aaron Nee (whose previous feature was the Mark Twain-inspired 2015 crime comedy Band of Robbers) ensure the pace and gags never lag, making full use of both Tatum and Bullock’s penchants for physical comedy (the latter managing to do it all while wearing a purple “glitter straight jacket” that makes her look like a “nerdy figure skater”). As a pair, they’re also terrific, sparring and generating genuine chemistry as they face everything from leeches to a seemingly endless array of henchmen.
But while Radcliffe perhaps underwhelms in the villainy stakes, Brad Pitt all but steals the show as human tracker and Alan’s wellness retreat buddy Jack Trainer. Continuing Pitt’s tradition of constantly chewing while on screen, Trainer is a whirling dervish of a character, long of mane and definitely not short on charisma or “special skills” (an attempted escape using a wheelbarrow and a chair is a true highlight).
Worth the price of admission alone, Trainer ends up being the enticing, laughter-inducing mirror glaze surrounding a well-baked action-rom-com romp.
- James Croot, STUFF
The Lost City is now playing at Light House Petone and Pauatahanui!