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The Lost City Nearly has the Right Formula. It’s just Missing the Sex.

Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum star in Paramount Pictures’ “THE LOST CITY.”

Escaping to a desert island. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Hollywood agrees, having recently released this and this. Add a steamy, romantic adventure and that’s the bare bones of The Lost City. There have been many classic movies in this genre. Romancing the Stone and The Mummy live on in our hearts. Probably because it’s a winning formula: the hot, lusty escapades of a buttoned-up woman lowering her guard. Eventually, she warms to the muscled capability of an extremely heterosexual guy. And, for some strange reason, khaki activewear is mandatory. It might be the dirty descriptor of film critique, yet formulas often make the best mix of all the ingredients. When a formula works, it really works.

Romantic adventure is a formula so seductive that studios won’t let it go. Trying to capitalise on previous success, The Lost City boasts an original screenplay and Sandra Bullock as its star. Bullock plays bookish Loretta Sage, a successful writer of bodice-rippers including ‘The Lost City of D”, about (a heroine the film isn’t interested in and) a muscled, extremely heterosexual hero called Dash. Loretta’s book tours are a must-attend because the cover model for Dash, the handsome Alan (Channing Tatum) always charms the crowds. Alan is young, dumb and full of cumbersome egocentric behaviour that makes these tours painful for Loretta. When not writing, Loretta is a student of ancient languages, a fact not lost on the rich and feckless Abigail (Daniel Radcliffe) an entrepreneur with a large chip on his delicate shoulder. Abigail kidnaps Loretta and flies her to a remote island to help him find…the real Lost City of D. Alan, desperate to act as a real hero for once and save Loretta, calls in a favour from ex-Navy Seal, Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt). The pair travel to the island, followed by Loretta’s Publisher Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) to rescue Loretta.

The Lost City is fine. It is not Romancing the Stone (which itself is of its time), nor is it The Mummy. That doesn’t mean that the film isn’t worth a watch. The chemistry between Bullock and Tatum works beautifully, as does Pitt’s turn as a handsome spanner in the works. Radcliffe has perfected his English baddie in a summer suit and Randolph’s subplot, although surplus to requirements, is a really nice diversion.

As joint directors, the Nee brothers try hard to live up to heavy expectations. The film they have made is, at times romantic, often action-packed and weirdly, frequently violent. Pitt and Bullock shoe-horn in some physical comedy too, which makes for a lot to fit in to one movie. Loretta is the requisite buttoned up heroine and Dash the muscled simpleton, but as the characters grow, the tropes also blossom, which is great. However, The Lost City seems to reflect what modern audiences have come to expect from big-budget movies, instead of what they actually want. This film is missing a key ingredient, sex. There is so little lust in this movie, it should be called The Lost Horny. That being said, the budget has been well spent. The film fizzes with explosions, beautiful vistas and cool jungle set-pieces. Yet, the film’s strongest selling point lies in the quiet moments between the leads, of which there are never enough.

The Lost City is a nice diversion and a fair addition to the romantic adventure canon, full of likeable characters. But in its desperation not to be formulaic, key ingredients have been removed from the formula. Let’s hope studios keep trying to perfect the romantic adventure and give us something worthy of this mouth-watering recipe. Because we are parched.

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