The Lost City (Christian Movie Review)
Final Verdict: A delightful story concept undone by a lazy script and a lack of laughs.
About The Film
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if real life reflected a trashy romance novel? If so, then shame on you. But also, The Lost City is here to explore that hypothetical scenario. Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a popular author of sleazy romance novels, which feature a fictionalized version of herself and Alan (Channing Tatum), a hunky cover model who plays a Fabio-inspired character named “Dash”. When Loretta is kidnapped by Daniel Radcliffe’s delightful villain, she soon finds herself living out one of her fictional adventures. Sprinkle in some scenes of Brad Pitt hamming it up in a secondary role, and you’ve got yourself a romantic comedy.
The premise is fun, and all the actors are fine (even if Tatum’s character changes his personality from scene-to-scene depending on who the plot needs him to be). All the pieces are available for an enjoyable and refreshingly original story. Unfortunately, these pieces are never successfully put together in interesting or amusing ways.
The film simply isn’t very clever. The intriguing “author inside her story” concept is sadly underutilized. The opening scene (featured prominently in the trailers) is an amusing and creative way to get inside a writer’s head, but that technique is abandoned and never used again. The idea of characters living out a real-life adventure like their fictional characters is interesting, but the film rarely draws connections between the two. There’s a repeated joke where Loretta reminds Alan that he’s not actually “Dash.” But Alan rarely seems to try and be Dash and has a firm grasp that he is more than his cover photos. Similarly, Loretta thinks little of her novels, and has no unrealistic expectations that they present any form of truth. As a result, the promising concept falls mostly flat.
Comedies are among the trickiest movies to evaluate since humor is largely subjective. The success of a comedy hinges on its ability to make people laugh, but not everyone laughs at the same jokes. For my part, at least, this is not an overly funny film. My theater was not crowded, but with the lights dimmed it may as well have been empty. This is not a laugh-out-loud, belly-clutching comedy. The jokes come mostly in the banter between characters, which is hit-or-miss. There are several lines that are quite funny, but most feel extremely forced. The actors are trying really hard to be funny, almost begging audiences to laugh. Think a Marvel quip but drawn out for 30-60 seconds.
As an original story, The Lost City is the type of movie I’d love to see more of. Unfortunately, this particular movie is unlikely to inspire much appetite for more. The premise falls flat, the comedy rarely hits, and the romance feels emotionless, resulting in a movie that never manages to capitalize on its promising concept.
Profanity: Possibly 1 F-bomb (I did not hear it but have read that there may be one). Beyond that, there are a handful of other minor profanities, a lot of sexual innuendos and crude talk, and frequent ‘placeholder’ swears (ie. “Cheese and Rice”).
Sexuality: While there is no actual sex, there is plenty of talk about sex (unsurprising given the plot). There are also a lot of sexual innuendos. There is a scene where Tatum’s bare butt is on full display, followed by a prolonged gag where Bullock looks at and talks about his exposed genitals (which are not visible to the audience).
Violence: There is one moment of intentionally shocking violence where a character is killed and his blood splatters onto the other characters (the murdered character is not shown). Later, the characters talk about the blood, wondering if it is brains. The moment is played for laughs.
Engage the Film
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Midway through the movie, Alan lectures Loretta, “You of all people should know not to judge a book by its cover.” The maxim is fairly universal and not unique to Christianity, but it is nevertheless consistent with biblical teaching (James 2, John 7:24, 1 Samuel 16:7). The theme is explored with both main characters. As a romance novel cover model, Alan is perceived as vain and air-headed, his entire identity defined by his good looks. Yet, as Loretta discovers, his personal story is much more than that. Similarly, Loretta is perceived as a love guru novelist, but in real life she is grieving the loss of a loved one and is far more interested in academia than her sleazy romantic fiction. She writes the content that sells, but her heart is not into it. The way the movie presents this message is on the nose and never subtle, but the theme remains a worthy one and is a good reminder to look beyond and not judge other people by outward appearances alone.
Fiction and Reality
The movie explores the relationship between reality and fiction. On the one hand, it exposes the shortcomings and danger of escapist entertainment. Loretta writes novels about perfect and idealistic romances, but it is not until she experiences one of these adventures in real life that she is finally able to confront the heartbreak and grief in her own life. Similarly, Alan realizes that there is an immense difference between playing the hunky, comically perfect Dash and actually being the hero in real life. At its worst, fiction and fantasy allow people to escape and hide from reality.
On the other hand, fictional storytelling—even the more trivial stories—is not wholly negative. People connect to stories because they reflect a part of themselves. While neither Loretta or Alan are much like their fictional characters, there is a part of their true selves in those characters. At one point in the film, Alan reprimands Loretta for dismissing her novels as meaningless nonsense and fluff. The stories make a difference and provide comfort for many people, he explains, and there is value in that.
The Lost City is far more interested in trying to make people laugh than in exploring these themes in much depth, but the story can perhaps spark questions about our own relationship with stories and media, both for good and for bad.