Monday, April 11, 2022

The Lost City

This past Sunday night, I took advantage of a brief break in the otherwise unremitting hideousness of spring weather in Minnesota (guess what! it snowed again today – or rather, sleeted) and went back to Detroit Lakes for another attempt to guess which movie that I haven't seen yet doesn't suck. I pretty much had a choice of Ambulance, a shoot-'em-up directed by Michael Bay, and The Lost City, whose trailers read like a mash-up of Pim's Island (in which an agoraphobic author finds herself lured to a tropical paradise to meet the embodiment of her books' studly hero) and The Proposal (another Sandra Bullock comedy that over-relies on her male costar's naked butt to ensure its preservation as a cinematic treasure). Also like The Proposal, it forgets that it's already a comedy and brings in Oscar Nunez for comic relief. It costars Channing Tatum as the cover model for Bullock's series of steamy adventure novels who sets off to rescue her when she is kidnapped by a nefarious rich guy; Brad Pitt as the real-life action hero the not really very heroic Tatum hires to help; Daniel Radcliffe as the kidnapper who, ridiculously, thinks a romance novelist can find the Lost City of D and then, even more ridiculously, proves to be correct; and Da'Vine Joy Randolph as Bullock's editor who mounts her own rescue when Tatum and Bullock are both swallowed by the jungle. I might as well tell you now that I decided to watch the mashup. And surprisingly, I was entertained without coming away feeling insulted, as I did from last week's trip to see Morbius.

Now that I've kinda synopsized the movie, I might as well cut to the Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Bullock and Tatum set up a trap for a couple of motorcycle goons who are chasing them through the jungle, and end up unintentionally sending two of them plunging to their deaths. Their reaction is a prime example of the nervous, motormouth type of comedy both actors play throughout this movie, seemingly improvising their hilariously awkward dialogue in moments of distress. (2) One of the villain's henchmen plunges to his death immediately after mocking Tatum for stumbling on a cliffside path. There's an awful lot of henchmen death in this movie; it's a miracle that even one survives, no thanks to Tatum's klutziness when they're sent to kill him during an attempt to extract Bullock from a luxury armored vehicle. (3) Nunez, tackling Radcliffe as he attempts to escape capture: "Where are you going to go? You're on a boat."

All right, so the movie gave me some belly laughs. There was also a certain delicious irony in the way it subverted romantic adventure tropes while increasingly turning into a romantic adventure. You have to accept some inconsistencies to enjoy it, like the fact that Tatum gradually transforms into a heroic figure after being accurately described as a Ken doll earlier in the movie. Somewhere around the point where he shames Bullock for assuming that being a romance novel cover model was the highlight of his existence, he imperceptibly stops being the guy who arrives on a jungle island with a neck pillow still around his neck and a pouch of facial masks in his survival kit, and becomes the guy who instantly picks up Latin dancing at an open-air bar and never lets anything stop him after the night he uses the facial masks to soothe the eczema on his back. Both hero characters' vulnerabilities gradually disappear as they increasingly come to resemble the novel characters Bullock imagines them as, and the secret of the ancient royal tomb inspires the burnt-out author to find her romance-writing groove again, and we are mercifully spared a romance between Randolph and Nunez, and despite a slightly creepy mid-credits scene in which Pitt's character's gruesome demise is preposterously walked back, the audience – most of whom have already left the theater by that point – walks out with a smile. Which, in the last analysis, is the point. It seems so easy, but how many recent movies have gotten it?

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