‘The Lost City’ a classic rom-com success

Bullock and Tatum’s chemistry, genuinely funny physical comedy breathe new life into a conventional formula

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Amaya Collier

Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) and Dash McMahon (Channing Tatum) venture the jungle stranded.

Grace Vitale and Amaya Collier

Paramount Pictures Youtube Channel

Sandra Bullock is Loretta Sage, a romance novelist whose grief in the aftermath of her husband’s death threatens to ruin her career. Her books tie in obscene romance with tales of a lost city. Loretta has just debuted her latest novel, her growing disinterest in her work is only made worse by Alan, a dim-witted cover model who represents Dash, the hero of her books. Alan indulges Loretta’s readers at book signings, with flowing blond locks and carefree charm, to the point where he’s eclipsed her when it comes to her popularity with her readers. Loretta is sick of having to put on a show, and, despite the protestations of her editor Beth (Da‘Vine Joy Randolph), she’s considering just ending her book series entirely. For strained and convoluted reasons, Loretta is kidnapped in the middle of her book tour by unhinged rich guy Abigail Fairfax (a name, he insists, is gender-neutral). Fairfax realizes that the lost city from Loretta’s books is a real place, he wants Loretta to interpret the ancient text to uncover the location of the treasure before it is covered by a volcanic eruption.  After realizing what’s happened, Alan recruits Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt), a former Navy Seal and his meditation guru, to help rescue her on the remote island she’s been taken to. 

Channing Tatum is great, minimizing his character’s brawny and muscle-bound exterior to fulfill its desired comedic effect. ”

The film’s plot shares many parallels with the 1984 film Romancing of the Stone, though in a clever inversion of that film’s basic plot points, Alan proves to be nothing like Michael Douglas’s tough action hero Jack T. Colton. Nowhere is this more clear in the film than in a scene where Pitt and Tatum’s characters go to rescue Loretta from Fairfax’s compound. Trainer moves briskly, disabling Fairfax’s henchmen with the skill of a tried and true action hero. In contrast, Alan bumbles around looking completely unsure of what to do. Tatum is great in the scene, minimizing his character’s brawny and muscle-bound exterior to fulfill its desired comedic effect. 

As it goes with the rom-com formula, we as the audience know that Loretta and Alan will eventually spark up a romance, yet the film does an admirable job of developing the chemistry between its two leads. Specifically, it does this by attempting to give Alan romantic appeal beyond just his good looks by portraying his capacity for emotional intelligence and compassion, evident in little gestures such as when he brings a more practical pair of shoes for Loretta other than her heels to wander the island in. It’s because of this that when they finally strike up a romance, it actually feels earned. 

The film never necessarily transcends the limits of the conventional rom-com adventure formula, but it’s also ultimately not trying to. It does have some flashes of creativity in its vivid visual aesthetic and atmosphere.”

Tatum excels in the role primarily because he’s an actor who understands his appeal to audiences and uses it to his own advantage. Here, he amps up his character’s sheer stupidity to 11, using it as an impetus for brilliant displays of physical comedy. Tatum’s acute understanding of what is actually funny in physical comedy is matched by Bullock’s expertise in portraying soft characters with icy exteriors. 

The film never necessarily transcends the limits of the conventional rom-com adventure formula, but it’s also ultimately not trying to. It does have some flashes of creativity in its vivid visual aesthetic and atmosphere. Its supporting stars, most notably Randolph, Pitt, and Patti Harrison as Loretta’s eccentric social media manager, also display a tremendous propensity for comedy with bizarre and hilarious sparks of humor in what is otherwise an extremely formulaic script. In the end, the film lives and dies on the magnetic chemistry between Bullock and Tatum. It succeeds where other rom-coms like it have failed because its central relationship is imbued with what those other films’ relationships lacked, a shared sense of emotional vulnerability and empathy.