Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum have big fun in 'The Lost City' : Pop Culture Happy Hour In the new film The Lost City Sandra Bullock plays a romance novelist who is kidnapped by a duplicitous billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) looking for the real-life lost treasure referenced in her writing. Her cover model (Channing Tatum) embarks on a bumbling quest through the jungle and save her.

Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum have big fun in 'The Lost City'

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STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:

In "The Lost City," a romance novelist gets kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire. Her fate rests, at least in part, on the help of the model who appears shirtless on her book covers.

LINDA HOLMES, HOST:

The film stars Sandra Bullock as the novelist, Daniel Radcliffe as the billionaire, and Channing Tatum as the model who desperately wants to be the hero. I'm Linda Holmes.

THOMPSON: And I'm Stephen Thompson. Today we are talking about "The Lost City" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.

Here with Linda and me is our own Aisha Harris. Hey, Aisha.

AISHA HARRIS, BYLINE: Hello, Stephen.

THOMPSON: It is so nice to see you. So "The Lost City" stars Sandra Bullock as Loretta Sage, a romance novelist who is feeling burned out and still mourning the death of her husband. While she's promoting her latest book, she's kidnapped by the duplicitous billionaire Abigail Fairfax, who seeks a real life lost treasure referenced in her writing. Her cover model, Alan - again, that's Channing Tatum - embarks on a bumbling quest to maneuver his way through the jungle and save her. The film also features supporting performances by Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Oscar Nunez, Patti Harrison, Bowen Yang and a plucky newcomer by the name of Brad Pitt. Tonally speaking, "The Lost City" lands somewhere between swashbuckling jungle epics like "Romancing The Stone" and more recent action comedies like the 2013 Sandra Bullock vehicle, "The Heat." "The Lost City" is only playing in theaters. Aisha, I'm going to start with you. What did you think of "The Lost City"?

HARRIS: This was fun (laughter). I enjoyed it. It's definitely a throwback that I appreciated. You know, every couple of years or so, we do get the adventure in the jungle movie. Last year it was "Jungle Cruise." There was the whole "Jumanji" reboots that was happening. So I tend to enjoy these just because I like the idea of, like, nature being the villain in many ways, and then, you know, also getting some fun banter, witty banter and some knowing subversions of different tropes. And I think this movie does a pretty good job. It started a little bit slow for me, but once they got into the jungle and we had Channing Tatum being set up as, like - the sort of dissonance between him being, you know, who he is, looking the way he does and looking all fit and everything, but then being, like, completely inept in the jungle and not knowing what to do and playing up like beefcake dumb boy guy. He's just perfect for this. I love seeing him in this world. I love seeing Sandy Bullock finally come back and do something fun as opposed to, like, dour (laughter). It's great to see her get a chance to be fun again.

And so I really enjoyed it. And I think that - you know, I definitely - I know there's been talk already about a sequel. Doesn't need a sequel. I think it ended perfectly, but that's what I want. I want more of these type of, like, sort of mid-tier comedies. To me, this was like an above average comedy, and that's all you can ask for these days because so many aren't as fun. So, yes, this is fun. I enjoyed it. Go, team.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: All right. How about you Linda?

HOLMES: I was super into this. You mentioned "The Heat." What they're reaching for here to me is the Paul Feig kind of "The Heat," "Spy," that kind of stuff. I don't think it reaches that height. Those are some of my favorite comedies of the 21st century, though. So, I mean, that's a high bar. But I do think it's a really fun movie. And I think what makes it work so well for me is these are both really, really gifted physical comedians. These are both people who just have a profound understanding of their own physicality and what looks funny. That's why she's so funny in "Miss Congeniality." It's why she's so funny in "The Heat." And it's one of the reasons she's so funny in "While You Were Sleeping." She has a really good understanding of her face and her body and what looks funny. I think he understands his physicality as well as any movie star since Gene Kelly.

HARRIS: Yes.

HOLMES: When I watch him, whether it is the extraordinary dancing in not just "Magic Mike," but also all the way back to "Step Up," that wonderful sequence in "Hail Caesar!" that is so, so good and charming - and there is a little bit of dancing in this movie. I think - God, bless Sandra Bullock. She's been doing romantic comedies of various degrees of satisfaction for such a long time. Let her dance with Channing Tatum. Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: But also, he's done kind of, you know, goofy stuff, like "21 Jump Street." He's done interesting action roles in some cases like "Haywire," which is a Soderbergh picture. But also this stillness in something like "Foxcatcher" - he has a really powerful understanding of his physical presence. And so even though these are both people who kind of are all over the place in terms of, like Aisha was saying, fun movies versus dour movies versus comedy and drama and all this different stuff, this, to me, is this sweet spot of understanding what looks funny and what makes them look funny that I just found incredibly pleasurable to watch. Now, there's some recognition in the film that a couple of white people are having an adventure in the jungle, looking for an artifact, you know, near a volcano is very adjacent to a lot of colonialism and stuff.

HARRIS: Yeah. I have thoughts.

HOLMES: I think they tried to acknowledge that a little bit. But ultimately, it's still kind of is what it is. And I'm not - there are still going to be people, I think, who don't enjoy it for that reason. I think it is also a silly movie. Silliness is very personal. If it doesn't hit for you, it won't hit for you. I personally had a blast. I had such a good time. I was so - it was so welcome to me.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I think I came down probably a little bit more on the Aisha side of things where I was like, yeah, this was fun. This was fine. I appreciated that it felt a little bit like a throwback. I really got "Romancing The Stone" vibes off of this. To me, like, you could have just time traveled this movie to 1987, cast Geena Davis and Mel Gibson and had basically the exact same movie, and I appreciated that - you know, the kind of movie that is, like, transported directly from, you know, basic cable at 2:30 in the afternoon, and that's fun. I do want to voice, for me, one lingering real frustration with this movie.

And I think, Linda, you touched a little bit on the why of what is frustrating me about it. I think as sharp as the writing is around Sandra Bullock and around Channing Tatum, a lot of what they're doing comedically is their gift for physical comedy. I think where this script falls down so mightily is in virtually all of the supporting performances. I feel like they wrote jokes for Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt, but when Da'Vine Joy Randolph shows up, when Oscar Nunez shows up, when Patti Harrison shows up, they just didn't write jokes for them.

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: And at one point, Da'Vine Joy Randolph is giving a monologue, and it is supposed to be a showstopper. And what she says might as well be lorem ipsum in the script. It is like funny monologue here, and then they never wrote it.

HARRIS: Yeah, that monologue - I actually wrote in my notes, what?

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: I was like - because I think I understood what they were going for. Throughout this movie, you know, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, her character is sort of the typical Black side character where she is like the best friend, but who also happens to work with the lead white character. And so it seemed to me clear that the writers knew that this is a trope that can be problematic. They were trying to give her this moment where she is asserting herself, she's talking about how she's tired, she's been working so hard. And then she also tries to justify why she's flown all the way to the jungle to try and save her client and slash best friend. And that monologue just didn't work because at the end of the day, it was kind of rambling. It didn't have a center to it. And I wish they had just left it out. Like, it would have been at least a little bit less, like - less frustrating to see that.

I think her as an actress, she can do wonders with small side character roles. She played that in "High Fidelity," the TV series, and she was also in "Dolemite Is My Name." She was great there, too. And here she just seems sort of reduced to that trope. And I understand that they were trying to work it out and tease it out, and they do the same thing with Oscar Nunez's character as well, where there are few moments, and especially at the end, where he kind of gets this, like, line where he - it's supposed to sort of absolve the film of this still kind of weird colonialistic stuff going on.

But yeah, man, that was kind of my one hang-up. But at the end of the day, it also didn't take me out of the movie as much as it might have in a lesser movie. Like, it was annoying, but it wasn't, like, the worst thing in the world.

HOLMES: I do think, as I said, the place where this falls down relative to "Spy," for example, is that that movie is so impeccably built in terms of not just the lead.

THOMPSON: Exactly.

HOLMES: When you start thinking about it and you're like, oh, that's right - there's that hilarious Peter Serafinowicz performance in that movie, there's that great Miranda Hart performance in that movie, there's that great Bobby Cannavale performance in that movie. You know, not just the biggest stars, but, like, everybody who has anything to do in that movie gets to do a lot.

THOMPSON: Right.

HOLMES: And it's a little bit less true in "The Heat," but it's still true. You get good comedy around the other characters. And I do think it's true that - although I very much like what Brad Pitt does in this movie, which we have not talked about too much.

HARRIS: I love, love it (laughter).

HOLMES: He is wonderful in this. You've seen him be funny, but I think this kind of goofy, funny sort of riffing on his own Hollywoodness (ph) I very much appreciated. I like what Daniel Radcliffe is doing - Daniel Radcliffe, you know, emerging as somebody who just does these bizarre roles in lots of different things I love. But I do think that outside of those four performers, I agree that the other folks in the film are not as well served, and that does include basically everybody who's not a white person who's in the movie.

And I'll tell you, Stephen, in terms of it being a throwback to "Romancing The Stone," the reason why this isn't "Romancing The Stone" is that it's an inversion of "Romancing The Stone," right? The romance writer in "Romancing The Stone" goes off and finds the - sort of the romantic hero of the type she writes about, right? This woman goes off with a guy who is a doofus, who is not the romantic hero that she writes about. That's sort of what the inversion is. I also will say, you would not have seen a woman who is more than 15 years older than the guy in the romantic comedy opposite her unless they talked about it a lot.

HARRIS: Right.

HOLMES: Again, bless Sandra Bullock. She also did, you know, "The Proposal" with Ryan Reynolds. She's done a couple of these romantic comedies with guys who are significantly younger than she is where that's not a big thing in the movie, which is not something - you know, when I was first writing about movies, I wrote about this all the time, that you would get these movies where the guy was, like, 15, 25 years older than the woman, and it was always just like...

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: Oh my God, Michael Douglas - series of Michael Douglas movies where he is acting with women 30 years younger than...

HOLMES: And Richard Gere movies and...

HARRIS: But you have to be honest about part of why that's the case. Like, the times have changed, but also Sandra Bullock does not look like - I don't know - Bette Davis did when she was the same age, you know? Like, her and Jennifer Lopez are, like, probably the only women right now in Hollywood who are still consistently playing against men who are 10, 15 years younger. If they didn't look like that, it probably wouldn't be happening because in the public's mind and in Hollywood's mind largely, it's still believable that this would be a romantic couple.

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: But I'm happy that we're seeing this. I just think we have to qualify (laughter).

THOMPSON: Well, it's interesting - in passing, you mentioned Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds was originally considered for the part that is played by Channing Tatum in this movie.

HOLMES: Oh, that wouldn't have worked at all.

HARRIS: Yeah, I don't think so.

THOMPSON: My immediate thought was how on earth would that have worked? Because so much of what I found enjoyable about this movie is the fact that - as you said, Linda - he's a doofus. He's super earnest. He's super try-hard. And you get so much comedic tension and release and joy from watching this super buff dude screw up when thrown into an actual action scenario. Do you see Ryan Reynolds functioning in that capacity at all?

HARRIS: I'd see Chris Pine there before I would see Ryan Reynolds. Like, I could totally see that.

HOLMES: Chris Pine could for sure work, I think.

HARRIS: Yeah, but Ryan Reynolds is too, like, smarmy.

HOLMES: Yes.

HARRIS: He doesn't have that sort of innocent quality to him that Channing Tatum is able to give even while looking as, like - like a military dude. Like, he looks very - you know, he still feels - he seems like a teddy bear, you know?

HOLMES: I think it took a long time for Channing Tatum because of what he looks like and because of what he started off doing, right? Not just because he started off in "Step Up," but because he started off in, like, what, Abercrombie & Fitch ads or something like that?

HARRIS: Yeah, I remember those ads.

HOLMES: Because people knew him as a model, and then they got to know him as an actor in "Step Up," I think it took a while for people to fully respect how really talented that guy is. It's like now, whenever I see he's going to be in something, I'm always like, oh, I hope it's not grim because I know he really has enjoyed doing drama and has been good in some really good dramatic roles. But, like, I just love it when he's silly. I find it so incredibly pleasurable to watch.

HARRIS: I've said it before, and I will say it again. "Magic Mike XXL" is the superior "Magic Mike."

THOMPSON: Yes.

HARRIS: As much as I liked the first one, I loved what that movie was doing and the way it let Channing Tatum very much, like, lean into all that physicality you were talking about, as well as being really funny and silly and just, like, very over-the-top.

HOLMES: Well, and there have been a couple people who have pointed out - and I think it's true - that this is a movie that is an example of a movie powered by movie stars. This is sort of what movie stars are. They are so fun to watch, and they are so good together, and they look so great in a movie, and it's - which is a hard thing to capture. Some people are great, great actors and also movie stars. Like, Denzel Washington is like that, I think - great, great actor.

HARRIS: Yeah, Tom Cruise.

HOLMES: Tom Cruise is like that. This is a movie that really showcases movie star, movie starness (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

THOMPSON: Well, we want to know what you think about "The Lost City." Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter @PCHH. That brings us to the end of our show. Thank you, Linda Holmes and Aisha Harris, for being here.

HARRIS: Thank you, buddy.

HOLMES: Thank you.

THOMPSON: And, of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. This episode was produced by Anna Isaacs and Rommel Wood and edited by Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides the music you are bobbing your head to right now. I'm Stephen Thompson, and we will see you all tomorrow when we'll be talking about the film "Everything Everywhere All At Once."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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