Grade:  B
Adventure-comedy
Rated PG-13

Sandra Bullock is at her comic best when she plays a character that would seem more comfortable in a drama than a comedy—someone who gets swept up reluctantly in the narrative events, but learns something about herself and others in the process. Including how to lighten up a bit. She excels at being the equivalent of a vaudevillian “second banana,” who plays it tongue-in-cheek straight while the other person is more ostensibly funny. It happened that way when she played opposite Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal and opposite Melissa McCarthy in The Heat, and it works the same way in The Lost City as she reacts to Channing Tatum.

The 2022 adventure-comedy fared well at the box office and with most critics, with the Rotten Tomatoes bunch giving it a 79 percent “fresh” rating, while the audience score was 83 percent. That’s a pretty high ranking, considering that the screenplay itself is nothing really new—just a mash-up of Romancing the Stone and Indiana Jones/Allan Quartermain adventures.

You’ll recognize similarities in a number of scenes, as when a ruined car forces them into a jungle gully and bad guys start shooting at them. But mostly the influence is made obvious when the film opens and former academic-turned-romance-novelist Loretta Sage (Bullock) is imagining a scene with her long-haired dashing hero who’s humorously named Dash McMahon (Tatum). Because Tatum’s character, Alan Caprison, is a model who was hired for a previous book cover and ended up being even more a fan favorite as Dash than the author herself, he’s part of a tour to promote her new book, The Lost City of D. But his flamboyance annoys Loretta and a first-event fiasco leads her to withdraw from the tour.

As good as Tatum and Bullock are together, they’re almost upstaged by Daniel Radcliffe and Brad Pitt in supporting roles. Radcliffe plays Abigail (more cheeky naming) Fairfax, a billionaire who realizes Loretta’s latest book was based on research she did with her late husband. When she refuses Abby’s offer to join his expedition to recover the Crown of Fire, he chloroforms her and kidnaps her. And like any self-respecting romantic hero, Alan decides he has to save her, with a little help from a man he once took self-awareness and flexibility lessons from:  Jack Trainer (Pitt), a former Navy SEAL and CIA operative who meets him on the island and proceeds to grab the spotlight in hilarious fashion. If you enjoyed Pitt’s dramedic talents in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, you’re going to love how he manages to be more over-the-top yet still understated and deadpan as can be.

Highbrows will love the film’s self-referential notes and numerous allusions, and everyone will appreciate that everyone seems to be having a good time. That includes the actors with ultra-minor roles, like Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Loretta’s publicist-publisher and Oscar Nunez as a wacky cargo plane pilot. Call it pandemic pandemonium, because directors Aaron and Adam Nee said everyone on the cast and crew was just extremely grateful to be making a movie during COVID. The terrain was rugged and slippery, Radcliffe was left alone in a marine cave for hours, and once the cast and crew made it down slippery slopes to the jungle valley where much of it was filmed, many decided to just camp there rather than return to lodgings and have to climb up and down again.

The Brothers Nee maintain the right pace throughout the film and check off all the boxes for a comedic quest adventure with romantic undertones, and why not? Their first film behind the camera was The Last Romantic (2006)and their second, Band of Robbers (2015), was a treasure hunt—a contemporized story of a grown-up Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer returning to the Mississippi River in search of Murrell’s treasure.

What can I say? Our family enjoyed The Lost City, and our grade averaged out to a solid B. While it may not be as good as Romancing the Stone or play up the romance angle as much, its still a lot of fun—enough to become a part of your family’s movie collection and rotation. And yes, despite some in-your-(and Bullock’s)-face male posterior nudity!

Entire family:  No (13 and older)
Run time: 111 min. Color
Aspect ratio:  2.39:1 widescreen
Featured audio: Dolby Atmos
Studio/Distributor: Paramount
Bonus features: B (bloopers especially good)
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Code
Amazon link
Trailer

Rated PG-13 for violence and some bloody images, suggestive material, partial nudity, and language

Language:  5/10—No f-bombs, but a dozen or so uses of other swearwords and the slang term “dick”

Sex:  6/10—There’s really just the one instance of nudity, with Tatum not needing a “butt double” and Bullock acting both repulsed by having to tend to him in first-aid fashion and also curious, appreciative; this might have been a 4/10 since it’s a single largely non-sexual incident, but the close-up drives it up to a 6/10

Violence:  6/10—Violence is mostly comedic or light: people fall off cliffs and die, and there’s the expected amount of punches and such; there’s also one incident where someone is shot in the face offscreen, but we see blood splatters after the fact

Adult situations:  5/10—One drug reference, light and sophisticated drinking of chardonnay in a bathtub, and a character smokes a cigar

Takeaway:  Sandra Bullock took the initiative here; she had a vision for the project, hired the directors, and tabbed Channing Tatum to co-star, so it seems like only a matter of time before we see her direct a film