It’s a Sunday afternoon, you’re extremely hungover, and no amount of brunch or Bloody Mary or dog breed hair can cure what ails you. All you can do is snuggle up under a blanket on your couch and watch the old movies on basic cable channels. You know, the ones rerunning endless blockbusters of yesteryear, campy-schlock comedies, corny romantic pranks — the channels that program blocks of heartwarming cinema designed to soothe your nagging noggin. Something must hold your attention while you wait for the Advil to kick in.
A push of a button on the remote later, and boom! There’s Sandra Bullock, always America’s flint darling, playing the role of a widowed romance novelist who’s stuck in a rut. Trotting valiantly by his side like a panting Labrador puppy with abs, Channing Tatum plays the popular model who has graced most of his book covers, sometimes even wearing a shirt. The latest entry in his series of globetrotting lovers doesn’t sell so well, given that it reads like a eulogy with sex scenes; its details of an ancient civilization deep in the jungles of South America, however, caught the attention of Daniel Radcliffe’s devilishly cheerful billionaire. He thinks she knows where the mythical Tomb of Calaman is and can help him find the legendary treasure known as the Crown of Fire.
A kidnapping later, Bullock’s reluctant Indiana Jones in a magenta sequined jumpsuit huddles around an excavation site occupied by henchmen and thugs. Tatum’s stupid himbo, who has a schoolboy crush on the blacksmith, is determined to save her. Tight escapes, chase scenes involving comically tiny cars, indiscriminate stabbing at jokes, and plenty of leeches taken from the breadwinner of a double ass ensue. I guess it’s not so bad, you think, adjusting the ice pack to your forehead.
It’s exactly like that The lost city is meant to be consumed, at some point in the far future, when you’re trying to fall asleep halfway from the hedonism of the night before. Judges will also agree to view it from 34,000 feet on an airplane, when you have a few hours to kill and there’s nothing else available on the airline’s in-flight entertainment service. The fact that this new take on an old chestnut is coming to a theater near you feels almost like an afterthought – she’s specifically designed to be watched in a state of distraction and/or defenseless against her aggressive attempts at charm. . Bullock and Tatum may be hunting for a lost artifact, but the film itself attempts to dig into a long-lost genre: the big-budget action-adventure romantic comedy. He wants to be modern Romanticize the stone so bad you can almost see the sweat from the flop running down the screen.
The funniest thing about this attempted resurrection is how well it sticks to a tried-and-true formula, from exotic locations to ethnic henchmen to the supporting stable of wisely cracking comic book people. The movie is smart enough to recruit Da’Vine greats Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison, Bowen Yang and Office‘s Oscar Nunez for his bench here, and lazy enough to assume that having them repeatedly say “Hashtag Shawn Mendes!” or giving them a funny accent and the occasional reaction shot is all it takes for a laugh. It’s not a spoiler to say Brad Pitt and his flowing flax locks appear, considering his presence has been a key part of the marketing materials. It’s also no shock to say that his extended in-joke cameo playing a constantly snacking ex-Navy SEAL is the highlight of the film, briefly turning things into a love triangle between two close fights. And while the fight scenes here are poorly edited, they do give enough to suggest that Pitt should hook up with a director like David Leitch and do his own middle-aged action hero version of Atomic blond. (Would we be happy to watch Brad Wick? Yes. Yes, we would.)
As for Bullock and Tatum, they’re both doing their best to do what they’ve done best in the past — they just don’t seem to do it in tandem. Maybe we’re sentimental (or just really old), but it’s nice to see the Miss Conviviality star taking a break from battling post-apocalyptic aliens blindfolded or doing prestige drama, and returning to the type of film she helped define and refine many years ago. She got a mean, first class um-What-did-you-just-say expression which is used very well here. Tatum is one of those performers who knows how to play dumb in the smartest way; it takes a certain type of comedic actor to have his character told that it’s impossible for women to “mansplain” something, then nail the response that he’s a feminist “and I believe women can do nothing what a man can do! By them selves? Great. Pair them together? Nick and Nora Charles are not.
There’s an art to doing this kind of flirtation and fireball entertainment, and if a different duo in front or behind the camera — directors are siblings Aaron and Adam Nee — could have improved on this filler, it’s is to guess. As if, The lost city is less a lost opportunity than something happy to stick to its middle course and bide its time. Because one day, you will come across this film on TV, positioned between Two weeks notice and The Jewel of the Nile during a TBS weekend movie marathon and, because you’re too tired to switch channels, settle into two comfortable hours of sheer mediocrity.