Review – Romancing The Movie (“The Lost City”)

How about this for a movie: a romance novelist who daydreams and sets her stories of high adventures with a flashy, hunky, guy and one day actually goes on one of her own adventures for real? That’s Romancing the Stone, right? Well. . .

Sandra Bullock stars as Loretta Sage, a recently widowed, depressed, and burned-out author of romance-adventure novels that center around a fictional hero called Dash McMahon, who is portrayed IRL by a dimwitted model named Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum). While on tour with Alan to promote her new book (The Lost City of D), Loretta is kidnapped by Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), an eccentric billionaire & criminal who believes the Lost City of D is real and that she knows where it is! He even has a small map parchment that will reveal the whereabouts of the Crown of Fire, a jewel of untold riches, and he thinks Loretta can decipher the hieroglyphics on the map.

Quicker than you can say, “stealing a plot”, Loretta is whisked away to a remote volcanic island in the Atlantic by Abigail to find the hidden Crown of Fire. Meanwhile, Alan and Loretta’s die-hard publicist, Beth (De’Vine Joy Randolph), want to find her, but not using the Feds. Instead, they hire a super-suave ex-Navy Seal/CIA expert named Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt). But, once Loretta is rescued by Jack, things go downhill rather quickly, as dim-bulb Alan has to take over. From there it’s a series of hijinks, misadventures, and chases through the jungle to elude the bad guys. However, they eventually get caught and ruthless Abigail shows no mercy in wanting that treasure at any cost.

Does this movie ape the far-superior movie, Romancing the Stone, and tick-off practically every scene in that film? Yup! But what can you expect with not one, but four writers! Oren Uziel (22 Jump St.), Dana Fox (How To Be Single), and first-time theatrical directors & screenwriters, Adam & Aaron Nee. One thing is for sure, this movie lacks any of the chemistry, fun, adventure, suspense, or sheer excitement of the movie they were obviously copying. There were potential scenes of comedy gold that were gift-wrapped. . . and then left ignored. Plus, a totally cool character was written-out, which was a gigantic mistake! You don’t do that to someone who makes your film watchable!

You can tell these writers are strictly mediocre as their script, aside from copycatting a better movie, is filled with awful, trite, clichéd dialogue and so, so many plot holes! Not to mention all the unfunny humor and forced romance. The only redeeming values are the actors, starting with Daniel Radcliffe, who makes an excellent villain and really puts his heart into the role. And then there’s Brad Pitt, who elevates this movie to a whole new level. 

Bullock, this being her last role for a while (so she says), is very good, giving in to her silly side, while Tatum does his ‘dumb-guy’ persona all too well, showing off his chiseled abs, as usual. Randolph, as Loretta’s sassy publicist, needed to dial it up to 11 in many scenes. And I will give kudos to the brothers Nee for their direction, which had some nice moments. Seriously, IF you’re gonna try and copy/imitate a previous film, at least attempt to make it better!

**Now showing only in theaters

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Y’know all those “trashy romance novels” you see in the bookstores? I mean, used to see in the bookstores? Well, back in 1984, the dream team of Michael Douglas, Robert Zemeckis, and screenwriter Diane Thomas came out with this winner!

Her name is Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), a successful, but lonely, NYC romance novelist who’s in a slump. After finishing her latest novel, Joan leaves her apartment to meet her editor, but is handed a letter that contains a map. Little does she know this sets off a chain of events, starting with a frantic phone call from her sister, Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor), who’s been kidnapped by Columbian smugglers, cousins Ira (Zack Norman) and Ralph (Danny DeVito). They instruct Joan to go to the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena with the map she received.

But, naturally, things go very sideways when she gets there, as a ruthless killer and rival smuggler, Colonel Zolo (Manuel Ojeda), wants that map, too! As Joan is chased by Zolo, she luckily runs into a crazy (and handsome) American bird hunter named Jack T. Colton (Douglas) who decides to help her. . . for a fee. Together they traverse the Colombian jungle, get shot at by Zolo’s troops, escape dangerous waterfalls (and Ralph), get high on pot, and hitch a ride on local drug runner’s (Alfonso Arau) “little mule”–a tricked out Jeep. Thanks to Colton’s map-reading savvy, he pinpoints the location of “El Corazon”, and they find the hidden treasure: a priceless jewel!

Finally, they show up for the climatic ransom meeting and things don’t go as planned (do they ever?), as Zolo makes his reappearance as well as a nasty crocodile! In the end, Joan gets her “Jesse” (the secret love of her daydreams), Jack fulfills his dream of getting a boat, and a new bestseller is born! What’s truly sad is that this was Diane Thomas’ one and only screenplay, as she died unexpectantly a year later in a car crash. Think of all the other scripts she could have written! This story had it all: action, adventure, comedy, romance, intrigue, a treasure hunt, suspense, and witty dialogue. And all this from a simple Malibu waitress! RIP, Diane Thomas.

Although some (at the time) said it was just a rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the box office returns said differently as this movie made major bank. And you couldn’t deny the electric chemistry of Douglas and Turner, who lit up the screen. Then you have the over-the-top comedy of DeVito who just sealed the deal, along with the slam-bang direction of Zemeckis. This is one of those movies you can see a dozen times and never get tired of it. It’s a shame the sequel, 1985’s Jewel of the Nile, sucked so hard, even though the same cast was back.

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