Reviewed by: Shawna Ellis
Romance novels and their authors
Is it right for women to read what amounts to literary porn? To fantasize about a handsome cover model and objectify him?
Love is more important than material possessions.
Politically correct messages included in entertainment films — feminism, environmentalism, gender neutrality, etc.
Nudity—Why are humans supposed to wear clothes?
Sandra Bullock … Loretta Sage
Channing Tatum … Alan Caprison / Dash McMahon
Brad Pitt … Jack Trainer
Daniel Radcliffe … Abigail Fairfax
Patti Harrison … Pratt Caprison
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|Distributor||Paramount Pictures Corporation|
It seems that people have been hungry for a straightforward comedy/action/romance/adventure featuring fun characters and exciting situations. From the comments I’ve seen, “The Lost City” is striking the right note with many viewers, recalling classics of this once-popular genera.
Much of the appeal of this film hinges on the cast, with Sandra Bullock as the reclusive romance novelist Loretta Sage, Channing Tatum as Alan the dashing cover model, and Daniel Radcliffe as the eccentric villain Abigail Fairfax. Other stars and extended cameos add to the mix, with no one taking himself or herself too seriously in this zany jungle adventure. It is refreshing in its way and leads to a somewhat predictable but still entertaining film. The audience with which I was watching laughed and giggled their way through with obvious enjoyment as they immersed themselves into the simple story.
Having just completed her book “The Lost City of D,” novelist Loretta Sage seems ready to give up on her popular romance adventure series. Grieving the loss of her archaeologist husband, she feels that her adventuring days are long behind her. Now she’s just going through the motions to satisfy her driven publicist Beth (Da'Vine Joy Randalph) with public appearances. Loretta is dismayed to learn that she will be sharing the stage with the cover model for her books, Alan, who portrays himself as the embodiment of Loretta’s adventurous and capable hero “Dash McMahon.” After a singularly disastrous public appearance, Loretta disappears. It is now up to Beth and Alan to find her.
It’s a shame that such an adventure is marred by many sexual themes, lewd jokes and extended male nudity. The premise of the movie is based upon a lurid romance novel, after all. But thankfully, mixed in with the unwholesome content are also some redemptive themes. Characters learn that even though one stage of life may seem over, future stories are yet to be written. Others who may have seemed vain and shallow present more depth, and friends show unwavering loyalty even in the face of mortal danger. When characters are pushed to defend themselves, they lament the loss of life.
The directors (siblings Aaron and Adam Nee) brought together a great cast for this film. Channing Tatum brings humor, heart and charismatic appeal to his character. Alan is not adept at adventuring like “Dash” in the novels, but he is undeniably heroic. He respects Loretta, appreciates the fans and takes his role as Dash seriously not because of vanity but because it brings joy to the readers. He is sincere, kind and devoted. Tatum is skilled at physical comedy coupled with banter, and paired with Sandra Bullock the duo is quite funny.
Sandra Bullock is believable as an authoress struggling with her identity. It is only a crisis situation which brings her out of despondency. Her physical style of comedy blended with clever dialog is perfect for this role.
Publicist Beth cares about Loretta and Alan, but has her own set of motivations and struggles which are explored in a side plot. Although Da'Vine Joy Randalph’s character is engaging, Beth’s subplot feels a little tacked on and interrupts the flow of the adventure.
Daniel Radcliffe was a pleasant surprise as the incredibly polite eccentric millionaire Abigail Fairfax. Abigail is obsessed with finding the Lost City’s treasure which will esteem him in the eyes of his judging father.
Other characters add color, excitement and whimsy, even in brief roles. One of the best elements of the film for me was that it was very self-aware, poking fun at its own genre and never taking itself too seriously. Even so, a few heartfelt moments are interspersed amongst the action and comedy sequences without seeming terribly out of place.
Some of these present valuable themes, such as one’s story not being over just because a chapter has closed. At one point, Loretta reminisces that she and her late husband would use the Latin phrase dulcius ex asperis after accomplishing a goal, which means “it is sweeter after difficulty.” Although none of the characters seem to be believers or reference God except to use His name in vain, this phrase carries Biblical truth. Romans 5:3 says that sufferings produce perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Going through difficulties and trials grow us in many ways, hopefully toward service for God. For the unbeliever, growth can still happen but it will not have as much “sweetness” as for those whose sufferings have grown them in Christ. For Loretta, she does not understand that even the loss of her husband was a difficulty after which she could grow.
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?
Why is the world the way it is? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) Answer
Other beneficial themes may be overshadowed by the problematic content in the film, which lies mainly in sexualizing the attractive lead characters and referencing Loretta’s erotic novels. It’s clear that the romance books depicted in this film are rather lewd as some parts are read aloud. This leads to a question… is it right for women to read what amounts to literary porn? To fantasize about a handsome cover model and objectify him? These books may not contain graphic photos but they are still fueling lust and idealizing a “perfect man” with which most real life husbands could never compete. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 5:27-28 that adultery begins in the mind, and that lusting after someone is the same as committing the act in one’s heart.
Sexual lust outside of marriage—Why does God strongly warn us about it?
What does it mean to be LASCIVIOUS? Answer
This can surely apply to both genders. Many women consider romance novels to be “escapism” from mundane daily life, but they can certainly lead to unwholesome desires. The female fans in the movie are obsessed with “Dash,” calling out for him to remove his shirt. They do not seem to see Alan as a person but objectify him as an item of sexual desire. Likewise, viewers who are watching the film to lust after and objectify the actor Channing Tatum are doing the same. There are plenty of opportunities to do so, and those who find themselves struggling with lust should be cautious in viewing this film. Content of concern for both male and female viewers is high.
LANGUAGE: Crude and vulgar language is peppered throughout, although not as heavily as most movies of this genre and rating. There are several uses of sh*t, a**, a**hole, bada**, d*cks, cr*p, and more, including “Motherf**k.” A character is called a slut as a good-natured taunt. Lewd talk is fairly frequent (see section below). Profane language includes d*mn and h*ll, several inappropriate uses of God’s name such as “Oh G*d!” (6) and “Oh my G*d!” (13) and one exclamation of “Holy mother of G*d!” as well as two misuses of Jesus Christ’s name.
SEX: Sexual innuendo and discussions come up frequently. Loretta’s books are lurid romance novels, and some sexualized dialog and discussions will reflect this. There is mention of Kegel exercises and “front and back” wedgies, when to use the word “throbbing” in a novel, and Loretta often uses language with double meaning such as “I’ve seen your engorged sacks” (actually referring to leeches) and a similar reference to being “sucked off.” The covers of the novels show models in immodest clothing and poses. The title of the most recent novel is “The Lost City of D,” leaving some people to assume that the D stands for “dick” although we learn it does not.
Female fans clamor for Alan to remove his shirt and fawn over him as a sex object (he treats them with courtesy and respect). Loretta is seen in a bath (nothing shown). She is dressed in an ultra-tight outfit with a gaping front for most of the film, showing considerable skin. In another outfit, she has extensive bare shoulders. At one point Loretta is seen in a bikini with a semi-sheer cover-up. Beth the publicist wears an outfit with extreme cleavage in the first half of the film. Alan is frequently shirtless. In a lengthy scene, Alan’s naked rear fills the screen as Loretta looks for leeches on his front. She makes several comments about what she is seeing (played for humor). This extended, very close nudity really pushed the limits of the rating, in my opinion. (The rear nudity could easily be avoided by leaving at the beginning of the leech scene and returning in about 3 minutes.) Several situations place Alan and Loretta in close and awkward contact, such as squeezing into a small car or sharing a hammock. Alan boosts Loretta up a cliff by placing his head between her legs, to which she exclaims, “That’s my hoo-hoo!” There is a steamy dance scene and a couple of kisses.
VIOLENCE: The film involves action adventure and features chases, gunshots, kidnapping, captivity, attacks, danger in water, explosions, fire, off-screen deaths, constrictive places, chokings and more. One scene shows blood spray (the only real gore). Leeches leave small wounds. The characters are in frequent deadly peril from both enemies and nature.
DRUGS AND ALCOHOL: Alcohol is frequently served and consumed. One character appears drunk. A toast is offered to a dead person. Chloroform is used to subdue someone. A character smokes cigars.
OCCULT: New Age meditation is mentioned and is also shown in a mid-credits scene. There is discussion of ancient tribal rituals.
Although the movie was fun, entertaining, and even had its moments of thoughtful sentimentality, viewers should use caution here. There are many areas in this film that can lead to stumbling. It’s a shame, because the directors have hit upon a winsome formula in every other way.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.