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Let’s say you have a surpassing recipe for cherry pie. All the ingredients, in their allotted measurements, blend together like a dream. No one who has ever tasted your cherry pie is disappointed, because the recipe works, every time. 

Would anyone critique you because you used the same winning recipe again, instead of trying a new formula with, say, truffle oil and dried hibiscus to mix things up? Of course not. 

You see where I’m going with this. The Lost City, a screwball rom-com starring two of Hollywood’s most likable stars, follows the tried-and-true recipe of other funny, romantic, lost treasure caper movies (especially Romancing the Stone and Raiders of the Lost Ark, also set in the jungle). It plows no new ground, adds little in terms of new ingredients, but it all blends together like a dream. (Take that, critics who sniffed at the film’s formulaic plot.) You’ll laugh a lot and leave the theater happier than when you came. And honestly, the sheer predictability of the plot is comforting. 

Our story begins with Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock), a romance author who doesn’t believe in her writing anymore. She’s grieving the loss of her husband and floundering badly. Enter Alan (Channing Tatum, who has great comic instincts and a delightful way of making fun of his hunky looks), the Fabio-like cover model for her hugely popular romance novels. She thinks he’s dumber than a box of rocks (he’s not), and for some reason, he carries a decidedly unrequited torch for her. True, Alan’s not traditionally intelligent, but his emotional IQ is off the charts. The setup at a book signing/fan event is clear: Readers want to see “Dash,” Alan’s cover boy, rip his shirt off. Loretta’s writing is almost beside the point, which makes her grit her teeth in annoyance. As romantic partners, they are non-starters. 

When Loretta is kidnapped by a deranged billionaire fan (a completely looney-tunes Daniel Radcliffe, enjoying himself immensely without a wand in sight) to a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere, Alan rises to the occasion appointing himself Loretta’s rescuer. Just like Dash does in the books, Alan wants to overcome any obstacle (jungle cliffs, underground caves, and his vehicle falling off a mountain) to be Loretta’s hero. Loretta, no damsel in distress, can well take care of herself, but she still might need a little help.

Alan, out of his depth, enlists the help of his meditation guru (a hilarious Brad Pitt, who gets big laughs just by slo-mo running and tossing his long, blond wig), and the two embark on a plan to rescue Loretta from the clutches of a madman.

Moviegoers know where this is all going, but hey, it’s a fun ride, so why not strap in? Bullock, who has stated that she is now taking a break from making movies, is superb at physical comedy, and Tatum knows exactly how to play her muscle-bound straight man. Beyond the laughs, the two soon forge a tender bond that feels real, even in preposterous circumstances. Brad Pitt might get the biggest laughs, but the two leads generate authentic heartwarming moments.

Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual innuendo, The Lost City is a bright light in what is often a dark, gritty moviemaking landscape. It just goes to show that sometimes high-quality ingredients, mixed in a time-tested way, are just the ticket. (Paramount+, Amazon Prime)

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