Thursday, December 7

Movie review: ‘The Lost City’ a triumphant rom-com return by Sandra Bullock

The enduring power of Sandra Bullock as a rom-com heroine is one of the greatest wonders of the world. In her latest action-comedy, “The Lost City,” opposite Channing Tatum, she’s just as fresh, funny and beguiling as she was 28 years ago, in her breakout role opposite Keanu Reeves in “Speed.”

The characters in “The Lost City” are searching for treasure in a remote tropical jungle, but the real marvel is in front of them all along, in the form of our beloved Sandra B.

The script, by Seth Gordon, Oren Uziel, Dana Fox and co-directors Aaron and Adam Nee, is uniquely suited to Bullock’s gifts for rat-a-tat dialogue and physical comedy. It’s a treat to watch her slip into the comfort of this comedic zone, which fits her as well as the pink sequined jumpsuit in which she spends the majority of the movie, and it’s especially welcome after her last two starring roles, the dour “The Unforgivable” and the apocalyptic horror film “Bird Box.”

Bullock stars as a romance novelist, Loretta Sage, who has channeled the heartbreaking loss of her archaeologist husband into fodder for her historically informed smut (which is, as is mentioned, the highest revenue-generating literary genre, and nothing to scoff at). But Loretta’s reclusive life has stopped generating material to mine for her work, and she struggles with writer’s block, barely finishing her last book, “The Lost City of D” (a sassy double entendre for the journey she’ll go on).

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The task of “The Lost City” is to get the sad widow out from behind her laptop and on a hapless adventure with a handsome hero, and the Nees deliver on that promise with an all-out charm offensive in this action-packed lark. Tatum co-stars as Loretta’s Fabio-esque cover model, Alan, whom she initially dismisses, in his distressed jeans and billowing blouse. But when she’s kidnapped from a book convention by a wealthy media scion, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who has taken up rare artifact hunting and needs Loretta’s unique translation skills to find a legendary crown on a remote island, it’s Alan who stages her rescue.

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Enter the third prong of the charm offensive: the one and only Brad Pitt, as rescue specialist-meditation teacher Jack Trainer, seemingly Loretta’s fictional romantic hero character, Dash, come to life. While Alan’s long blonde mane is a wig, Jack’s is the real thing, and he kicks, flips and punches with stunning grace. Even Loretta is astonished that he’s real.

Unfortunately, Loretta finds herself alongside Alan in the jungle, fighting to escape Fairfax’s henchmen, and the two bicker, then soften, and learn to work together. “The Lost City,” which calls to mind the 1984 film “Romancing the Stone,” isn’t reinventing the wheel, but who says the screwball comedy needs to be reinvented?

This one rolls right over any doubters, powered by Bullock and Tatum, in a film that lets them play to their strengths. Tatum’s Alan is an impossibly hot and goofy human golden retriever, while Bullock’s Loretta is brassy, bossy and whip-smart. Pitt having fun in a light-hearted role is downright revelatory. The script is fast and funny, the style colorfully cartoonish, and just the right amount of unreal for this implausible tale. The cast is rounded out by a crew of hilarious comedians, including Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Bowen Yang, Patti Harrison and Oscar Nuñez.

“The Lost City” isn’t just a diverting romp, it’s a return to rom-com form for one of our best and brightest stars of the genre. Bullock’s still got it, and she won’t soon let you forget it.

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