Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 2022. Paramount Pictures, 3dot productions Exhibit A, Fortis Films. Story by Seth Gordon, Screenplay by Oren Uziel, Dana Fox, Adam Nee, Aaron Nee. Cinematography by Jonathan Sela. Produced by Sandra Bullock, Liza Chasin, Seth Gordon. Music by Pinar Toprak. Production Design by Jim Bissell. Costume Design by Marlene Stewart. Film Editing by Craig Alpert.
Despite being played by an actress who is almost sixty and still possesses a thigh gap that allows her to pull off a sparkly jumpsuit like she’s a Laker Girl in her teens, Loretta Sage is a miserable woman; add to this that she’s a loner bookworm who escapes reality in the romance novels she writes but is portrayed by Sandra Bullock who has, and I say this without judgment, performed a lifetime’s worth of very evident plastic surgery on her magnificent face, and you have the kind of fantasy that only Hollywood can deliver without the slightest hint of irony. Well, almost without any irony, as the tongue is firmly in the cheek of a lot of the dialogue exchanges and situations that pop up in this diverting, beautifully shot retread of Romancing The Stone.
Loretta is the widow of an archaeologist who has never gotten over her husband’s death and, no longer accompanying him on digs, uses her knowledge of their field to fill the pages of the adventure stories that feature her signature heroine, Angela, who is always being rescued by the handsome hero with the flowing locks, Dash McMahon. In real life, Dash is portrayed on the covers of Sage’s novels by Alan (Channing Tatum), who accompanies Loretta on the latest promotional tour of her new book despite the fact that she is embarrassed by her latest output and is determined to never write another silly piece of “schlock” ever again. She might get her wish, as she is kidnapped from a disastrous public appearance by a nutty billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe in fine form) who wants to use her knowledge of ancient pictograph-based languages to help him find a rare and precious treasure on an isolated volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean.
Thanks to Loretta’s wearing a smart watch that acts as a tracking device, Alan follows the kidnappers and their victim to their tropical location, where he meets up with the ace assassin (Brad Pitt in a hilarious cameo) that he has hired to save the woman who has given him his celebrated modeling career. That doesn’t quite work out as planned, and it leads to Loretta, still in that sequined jumpsuit, and Alan traipsing through the jungle trying to avoid Radcliffe’s murderous thugs, while her desperate editor Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) treks her way down south to save them both.
Naturally, being stuck in the beautiful outdoors, even with killers at your back, is good for stoking romance between an infectiously funny movie star and her impossibly hunky star, and the two have a good time developing a chemistry between them that, while not explosive, is pleasant; if anything, it’s far more amusing than the clunky and far too predictable attempt to reverse the usual gender set-up of skeptical man and featherbrained supermodel by having Tatum play Bullock’s Manic Pixie Dream Man. He seems to be having a great time sending up his image by portraying a vain airhead who thinks face masks are an essential survival tool to bring to a jungle rescue (and what does Tatum have to lose at this point in his career by sending up his image anyway), while Bullock’s timing is, to no one’s surprise, always on point, and the screenplay manages to put them through far more of a good time than the similar adventure of Amy Schumer’s Snatched did a few years ago.
It’s a shame that, as with many films of its time, so much of the green-screen photography looks artificial and the texture of being stranded in real places that made a film like Zemeckis’ classic so potent isn’t achieved here. We can accept the unrealistically youthful looks on the wealthy movie star pretending to be an old maid, but if the movie can’t convince us that we’ve really gone somewhere, does it achieve its goal of being the best kind of escapism? It actually does, at times, but the laughs and the amusement wear off when it’s over and the film disappears from memory far too quickly.