Now that so many of us watch new releases at home, we may have lost sight of one of the modest pleasures of moviegoing: the Big-Screen Trifle, a romance or comedy that would probably work just fine viewed on the small screen—or on an airplane—but is somehow more fun seen in a theater, with a group of people united in the joy of laughing at totally stupid stuff. That’s the kind of movie The Lost City is: breezy, silly, possibly quickly forgettable—but if you need to lose yourself for an hour or two, it could be just the thing.
Sandra Bullock plays Loretta Sage, the writer of a series of popular romance novels with strong historical underpinnings: she’s a serious scholar first, but the books are her bread-and-butter, and she knows it. Her heroine, Angela Lovemore—that’s Dr. Lovemore to you—is an adventuress with beauty and brains. But Loretta, still grieving after the death of her husband, has lost the will and the energy to write and promote her books, much to the dismay of the publisher who’s invested so much in them (the always effervescent Da’Vine Joy Randolph). Grudgingly making an appearance at a book event—and zipped into a humiliating pink sequined jumpsuit she deems a “glitter onesie”—Loretta realizes she’s being outshone by the dim but adorable beefcake charmer who’s been the cover model for all her books, a Fabio-tressed hunk named Alan (Channing Tatum). The flowing blond locks are a wig, but the women in the audience don’t know and don’t care. They know him as the face and pecs of Loretta’s strapping male hero, known as Dash, and they just want to see him take his shirt off.
Read more reviews by Stephanie Zacharek
Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), an eccentric multi-millionaire, kidnaps Loretta. He hopes she will use her anthropological skills to retrieve an ancient jungle whatsit. Alan, who’s secretly attracted to Loretta but can’t get past her prickliness, attempts a rescue: we see him after his flight, blinking in the sunshine with his tiny wheelie bag, a puffy travel pillow perched around his neck like a fat necklace. You can read the rest here. The Lost City traces the ups and downs of this absurd adventure, and shows how the closed-off, sharp-tongued Loretta eventually realizes that Dash—make that Alan—isn’t so dumb after all, and is in fact worthy of her love.
Of course, you knew that was coming. Directed by brothers Aaron Nee and Adam Nee—who made a small-budget indie in 2006, Romantic Last—The Lost CityMany playful possibilities are available Romancing the StoneBullock and Tatum have a great sense of humor and are unafraid to be ridiculous. They also make this unlikely relationship feel real, at least in our beloved romantic comedy conventions. (The movie also features an outlandish mini-appearance by Brad Pitt, the specifics of which it’s better not to spoil.)
Bullock knows her way around a wisecrack, and though she doesn’t look particularly middle-aged, it’s pleasing to see her play a character who’s lived a little: Loretta is a bit tired and unafraid to let it show. Meanwhile, Tatum, with his hot-fireman-calendar physique and conspiratorial smile, is so secure in his masculinity that he can play a character who’s, say, totally grossed out by leeches: they cling to his brawny back after he and Loretta ford a tropical river, and as she, equally grossed out, hesitates to pluck them off, he blurts out, “Just find the queen and let’s be done with it!”
The Lost City freely invites us to gaze upon Tatum’s comeliness—Alan doesn’t mind being objectified, and is in fact perfectly happy being a hot dude who models for book covers, because it makes women happy, and he refuses to denigrate something that gives them such pleasure. He shows his generosity by doing little things for Loretta like buying her boots that are more sensible than the shinny heels she was wearing back when she was abducted. Even though she sneers at him and snaps at him like an angry turtle, it is clear that her resistance to his love is wearing down. Both of them find their paradisia, just as we knew. They both realize that the screwball connection they have would not be wasted. They could live by the motto “Love more than you hate.”
Register to Get More of the Story, TIME’s weekly entertainment newsletter, to get the context you need for the pop culture you love.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME