The Conservative Critic
Is The Lost City Worth Finding?
The Lost City released to theaters in March and gave a modest, profit making run before heading to Paramount Plus to begin its streaming journey. It wasn’t a “hit” per say but it’s a great example of how studio restraint and budget prioritization can make film releases to theaters still a worthwhile prospect.
Even with its modest success, most viewers will be finding this film on streaming like me. But is it worth finding? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: The Lost City
Overall Rating: Cute
There is nothing original or special about The Lost City and if not for its spectacular leading cast and production designers, it would have been a catastrophe. The story follows a novelist/shut-in played by Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) who inadvertently ends up on one of her own adventures seeking treasurer for a billionaire mad man played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise). Her cover model, a “Fabio” type played by Channing Tatum (Magic Mike), seeks the help of his spiritual advisor and commando played by Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and goes after her resulting in a rescue mission and adventure out of control.
The story is all but stolen from the 2008 children’s film, Nim’s Island starring Gerard Butler, Jodi Foster and Abigail Breslin and a lot of the core plot progressing scenarios are ripped out of Amy Schumer’s Snatched. The idea of bumbling regulars being stranded on an island going on an adventure for lost treasure is already very formulaic and has been explored to death. So to take a well used and well loved scenario and then apply stolen ideas and storyline just makes it even more tedious and unasked for.
However, Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum and Daniel Radcliffe are all at their best. Bullock’s physical comedy is at its Miss Congeniality peak and Channing Tatum’s self-deprecating goofs are pitch perfect. Radcliffe plays an evil billionaire better than he should and though serving as the straight man, provides plenty of credibility to steer the movie away from spoof and into action-comedy.
Additionally, the production design team was a big hero to the story. The film was designed to mirror a romance novel’s version of action/adventure and therefore the leading characters had to look simultaneously mussed and glamorous like the cover of a novel. They did an amazing job and created really rich and colorful environments where for moments viewers would forget about the romance novel imagery and then be brought back with a subtle costume shift for powerful “oh I see what you did there” moments which were neither on-the-nose nor too frequently placed.
With the balance of the absolutely dreadful storyline and the very strong execution the film ends up cute and a perfect watch for streaming at home.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Fun, well-paced
The film does not bother with heavy character development or pointless interludes. It stays on track, paces the action sequences well between the humor and romance sequences and is overall a fun watch. The jokes are well written and well performed with limited exceptions.
It would be even more fun if it wasn’t so easy to predict everything that would happen due to the derivative source material.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Both formulaic and derivative but okay
There is nothing worse than being completely unoriginal (unless you’re being nostalgic or intentionally referential) because it impacts so many facets of the movie. If the story is predictable it’s less fun and if the jokes and situation have been done before it impacts suspension of disbelief and lowers overall enjoyment. It was borderline criminal (massive hyperbole) for a studio to greenlight this movie with a plot so deeply similar to others without paying any reference to those it’s stolen from.
The only thing that saved the film is that they apparently spent the entire budget on cast. With two Oscar winners, a household name and Harry Potter it was hard to completely miss. But that isn’t to discredit the performances. Every player was committed and Bullock gave some of her better physical humor both in and out of the jungle scenes. Radcliffe has long since shed his Hogwarts robes and is a very believable villain who plays his role the most straight of the cast which really grounded the story.
Also – the production designers really had a vision. Highly concentrated colors and really glamorous makeup made for a thematic and visually appealing movie and helped save the whole thing from disaster. Specifically, Whitney James who was Sandra Bullock’s makeup lead did a stunning job carefully balancing fantasy and reality enough so that it’s worth noting her in particular.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: A little right
The movie leans ever so slightly to the right because the villain was not redemptive, he was not a self-made billionaire, and he wasn’t American. Additionally, it celebrated traditional feminine and masculine personality traits while allowing room for less traditional traits and it didn’t make a huge deal about it. It also acknowledged that feminist women can sometimes be too judgemental of men they deem less valuable than themselves.
The Lost City is cute and manages to be worth viewing at home despite it being ripped off from several other films thanks to the leading cast and production designers.