Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in The Lost City (Paramount Pictures)
Sandra Bullock might be one of the few movie stars who is almost universally liked, and that in itself is a rare talent. Even the star to which she has most often been compared, Julia Roberts, has always had a prickliness and edge that has meant that even though Bullock never reached Roberts’s level of stardom — then again, no actress alive probably has — she has never had even the hint of controversy. People enjoy her, and there isn’t any sense of complication to that enjoyment.
Because of this, with a few rare exceptions the movies for which Sandra Bullock is most beloved are disposable, much in the way that her latest film, The Lost City (not to be confused with The Lost City of Z, one of the most underrated epics of recent years), is. Miss Congeniality and While You Were Sleeping are completely formulaic, but Bullock is so likable in them that they have endured for decades. Even The Proposal has probably endured far better than her Oscar-winning turn in The Blind Side from the same year, because it does a better job of harnessing Bullock’s charm than the football biopic. Meanwhile, most of Bullock’s prestige movies (Crash, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) tend toward the terrible, but she always emerges completely unscathed.
In The Lost City, Bullock plays Loretta Sage, a widowed romance novelist who has isolated herself since the death of her husband, until her literary agent (Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who was terrific in My Name is Dolemite) sets her up with a book tour alongside Alan (Channing Tatum), the Fabio-like cover model for her romances. Loretta is kidnapped by the son of a wealthy media mogul (Daniel Radcliffe), who believes that she knows how to find an ancient relic based on the information in one of her novels, and Alan sets out to rescue her in the jungle.
Much of The Lost City feels like a throwback, with Romancing the Stone and its sequel as an inspiration. Even the conception of Tatum’s character as a romance novel cover boy seems from a distant time before Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey transformed the marked for trashy romances. Bullock could have played the role at almost any time in her career after Speed, because it trades heavily on her charisma. The same also applies to Channing Tatum, who is the most self-deprecating of hunks. He might be Magic Mike, but he knows how to play the dumb lug to full effect.
Because The Lost City is such a formulaic film, its success depends entirely on the chemistry between Bullock and Tatum and their ability to sell the film’s humor. Bullock and Tatum match together pretty well, and this continues Bullock’s run of pairing her with younger romantic partners (Ryan Reynolds, Bradley Cooper). The remarkable thing about the movies have never made it an issue, and rightfully so. In an industry where the typical age gap between romantic partners almost always means that the actor is at least a decade older than the actress, Bullock has quietly made strides for parity.
The Lost City, in general, goes for the jokes that one would expect from a movie of its type, and it probably has the most fun with an extended cameo from Brad Pitt as Alan’s trainer, named Trainer, who has some experience in special ops missions. But directors Aaron and Adam Nee seem to be going more for a sense of comfortable familiarity than anything. This is the movie that the trailers promise it will be: nothing more, nothing less than a vehicle for Sandra Bullock to lean on her charm and charisma.
The Lost City
Now in theaters
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