A deleted scene from the Aaron and Adam Nee-directed film The Lost City features romance novelist Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) and book cover model Dash (Channing Tatum) talking before going to sleep in a shared hammock. In this brief moment, the often superficial/noncomplex Dash comments that “the people who are closest to us are like …. these keepers of our memories or our own personal historians or something. And when they’re gone, you can feel like those stories are gone.” It’s a powerful line which not only provides some interesting insight from Dash, a character we grow to learn has more layers than one presumes from Tatum’s golden retriever-like performance, but gets to the heart of the romantic action comedy: there’s joy and pain in finding connection with others and it’s the stories we share that keep our loved ones with us when they go. The notion that we are our friends’ and loved ones’ historian is quite unexpected from a film which, upon the release of the first trailer, seemed in the vein of 1984’s romantic action comedy Romancing the Stone, starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito. While there are certainly similarities that work in The Lost City’s favor (fish-out-of-water premise, comedic actors just going for it, a nice balance of comedy, action, and heart), there’s even more that separates it. The upcoming home release of The Lost City includes around 50 minutes of bonus features to show you exactly how this film was made, illuminating just how singular The Lost City is.
Though this is an initial review for EoM, which usually would be spoiler-free, as the film hit theaters wide in March of 2022 and then landed on digital/Paramount+ in May, there’s been plenty of time for most folks to check out The Lost City in one form or another. As such, this is your spoiler-warning for details about the film.
Romance novelist Loretta Sage (Bullock) may be a beloved professional but, since the loss of her husband, she feels like she’s drifting so far out alone that even writing has lost its joy. After a particularly rough fan panel alongside long-time book cover model Alan (Tatum), she’s decided to hang it all up. Before she can tell her manager Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), rich eccentric Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) kidnaps Loretta believing that her recent novel holds the key to finding a lost treasure. Using a contact he’s made at a retreat, Alan recruits Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) to successfully rescue Loretta but, in the act, Jack is neutralized leaving Loretta and Alan on their own to make their way through the jungle and to freedom with a determined Abigail on their tail.
The first trailer for The Lost City leaves out a key component to the plot. It sets up the Romancing the Stone-angle but gives it a twist. That twist, beyond the cover model-turned-hero comic aspect, is that Loretta isn’t just a romance novelist, she’s a former historian and a widow. The first element gives Loretta the agency to understand her predicament and make smart choices, while the second creates her internal struggle and a connection to our villain, Fairfax. One read of her situation is that Loretta doesn’t want to quit being a romance novelist because she hates writing, but because the loss of her husband has caused her to turn inward, isolating herself to the point of not finding joy in the creative process, a process that she shared with her husband prior to his death. He was an archeologist and she, a historian whose inability to find stable work in her field, became an author and they found a way to merge their paths together. That she now feels lost, uninspired to write about both archeology and romance, makes a great deal of sense as she has yet to finish grieving. What we learn, through the course of the film, is that what Fairfax seeks is something that Loretta and her husband sought once before, and now she’s in a position to see it through. Before the script reveals that there is no treasure as Loretta and Fairfax believed (a rumored crown of rubies that’s actually a crown of red seashells), we come to understand that Loretta’s decision to try to find the treasure on her own despite it keeping Fairfax on her tail is to honor her husband. The journey, however, especially with Alan in tow, helps her remember who she was before his death devastated her worldview, a perception that is solidified upon the discovery that the crown is made of seashells, a gift from one lover to another. The story of the crown, the supposed Crown of Fire, grew in infamy with time, but the actual story of its creation, the symbol of lovers’ passion, was forgotten, remembered only by reading the walls of the tomb. A film like The Lost City could’ve succeeded entirely on the charms of its central cast, been a fairly straight-forward romantic comedy, a light palate cleanser form of entertainment. Except the script from Oren Uziel (22 Jump Street), Dana Fox (Cruella), and the Nees inserts a weight that offers real pathos to the adventure, offering healing over the mere pursuit of wealth or survival. Herein lies the difference between central protagonist Loretta and antagonist Fairfax: he wants treasure to prove his worth while finding the truth about the treasure is victory enough for her.
Amid the shockingly rich narrative is quite a bit of great character work and some fun action sequences. To be fair, any film that involves Bullock and Tatum within an action comedy is immediately going to raise expectations in this way given their respective histories with action (Bullock: Demolition Man; Speed; Tatum: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) and comedy (Bullock: Miss Congeniality; Tatum: This is the End). Pairing the two together is just a wellspring of ridiculousness that both sell perfectly, especially as they both play it straight while the situation does not. So whether Loretta is pulling leeches off Alan’s body or Alan is trying to make a case for acting as a human shield, we’re laughing despite the human risk presented before us. Of the many surprises in the film, I have to say that the use of Loretta’s jumpsuit as more than a costume, as a utility, is perhaps the biggest. According to the three-minute featurette “The Jumpsuit,” the idea of it came from Bullock’s actual love of jumpsuits and the color from a flower she had nearby during a Zoom call. The outfit makes sense as something that’s totally impractical to (a) try to evade kidnappers in and (b) remain hidden in a jungle as it gleams from a distance, yet the script found numerous ways to make it useful while moving the narrative forward. It also provided several opportunities for Bullock and Tatum to riff, which you can see evidence of in the blooper reel.
By the by, no pun intended, but… if you dig The Lost City, the bonus features are a bit of a treasure trove. The deleted scenes offer their own little pearls, but we can see why some were removed. The one I mention at the start of this home release review, that one I wouldn’t have minded if they kept in. The blooper reel is, as one expects with a comedy, hilarious, if only to see the alternate line deliveries and alternate dialogue that didn’t make the cut, the way in which the cast was clearly having a blast, and the other silliness happens on set. The remaining seven featurettes range from the deeply specific (“Charcuterie” walks you through the sequence in which Loretta meets Fairfax) to a larger perspective on the making of the film (“Location Profile” is not just about shooting in the Dominican Republic (a forced choice due to COVID-19) but about how the crew tried to leave a positive lasting impression upon shoot completion). So, whether you’re interested in the stunts, cast chemistry, on-location shooting, costuming, or set creation, there’s a little something for everyone with the home release.
Word of caution: It appears that the DVD edition includes zero bonus features, and only the standard definition version of the film. If you want to experience any of the behind-the-scenes content, you have to pick up the 4K UHD, Blu-ray, or digital editions.
The Lost City may not be this reviewer’s favorite film of the year, but it will undoubtedly be someone’s, not because it’s a fairly breezy comedy with some fun stunt sequences that play to the strengths of the cast, but because of its heart, because it’s willing to push away the gaudy, the shallow, the frivolous in favor of something real. Sure, it’s an imagined adventure filled with beautiful, talented people, yet its message is one of hope and love. That the real treasure in life is to create stories by being with others. That while loss implies that no more stories can be made, a duty remains to keep those stories going. That no matter how it feels at the end of the story, our lives are better having created them. Dulcious ex asperis, indeed.
The Lost City 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and digital Special Features:
- Eight (8) Deleted Scenes: More fun you didn’t see in theatres! (8:53)
- Bloopers: Laugh along with the cast at their hilarious on-set bloopers. (5:30)
- Dynamic Duo: Behind-the-scenes fun with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum to see how their comedy chemistry perfectly aligns for this odd-couple comedy adventure. (4:43)
- Location Profile: Take a trip to the exotic Dominican Republic movie location and find out how the crew dealt with heavy rain and mosquitos! (7:09)
- Jungle Rescue: See how the movie’s incredible action set pieces and crazy stunts were filmed. (6:26)
- The Jumpsuit: Discover what went into designing Loretta’s eye-catching purple sequin jumpsuit. (3:42)
- Charcuterie: A hilarious breakdown of Loretta’s big kidnapping scene and what it’s like to come under attack from a giant charcuterie board! (3:33)
- The Villains of The Lost City: Meet the bad guys: Abigail Fairfax and his henchmen. (5:30)
- Building The Lost City: A look at building the film’s incredible island world. (7:23)
Available on digital and streaming on Paramount+ May 10th, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD July 26th, 2022.
For more information, head to Paramount Pictures’s The Lost City web page.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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