The Lost City serves Channing Tatum two ways. First we meet him in full “Fabio” mode as “Dash,” a well-oiled romance cover model. Charmingly insufferable, “Dash” is a guy we could love to hate but never actually like. But then there’s Alan—the puppyish real guy underneath the flowing blond wig. There’s a guy Sandra Bullock (and, swoon, maybe a few of us in the audience) can fall in love with.
An adventure film in the mold of Indiana Jones and action-romance parody Romancing the Stone, The Lost City (in theaters Friday) sends romance novelist Loretta Sage on the misadventure of a lifetime. The villain? Daniel Radcliffe doing his best Dr. René Belloq. Mission control? Da’Vine Joy Randolph as indefatigable publicist Beth and Patti Harrison as the awkward social media maven, Pratt.
But Tatum’s lovesick cover guy is no Indiana Jones or Jack T. Colton.
Unlike those lovable rogues, this guy shows up to a rescue mission in the jungle with a rolling suitcase and a neck pillow—the kind of faux pas a female character would usually commit in the adventure films The Lost City lovingly spoofs. In Romancing the Stone, a genre-bending parody of the tropes shared by romance novels and action-adventure cinema, Kathleen Turner’s romance writer Joan Wilder watches in horror as Colton chops the stilettos off her shoes. “These were Italian,” she says. His reply: “Now they’re practical.”
The trope of the hyper-competent male adventurer taking the reins from a typically confident city girl reinforces rugged individualistic values and traditional gender roles. By spending The Lost City tending to his explosive eczema and begging his crush to pull the leeches off his ass, Tatum proves once again that he is a true ally to women. But more importantly, with this film, he has sealed his status as Hollywood’s consummate himbo.
A portmanteau of “him” and “bimbo,” the himbo is essentially a golden retriever in human form. He’s handsome and built but playful rather than aggressive. (Another A-list himbo would be Chris Hemsworth in Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters.)
In its most dismissive form, the trope is [pushes glasses up nose] based on the notion that all smart men wish to dominate others, especially women. Any man without such predatory menace or exploitative instincts, the trope suggests, must just be stupid. More and more, however, the himbo has been met with exaltation. From Bill and Ted, to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Josh Chan, to The Good Place’s Jason Mendoza, these lovable dummies have been getting their due.
Among the cleverer twists of The Lost City is making its himbo… actually pretty wise. When Loretta begins trashing her career, dismissing her own work as “shlock,” Alan tells her not to devalue her work or those for whom it sparks joy. He delivers an impassioned defense of the romance genre that rallies Loretta’s spirits enough to keep going—proving in the process that you should never judge a book by its… sorry.
Is it any surprise that Tatum would jump at a role like this? He’s made a career of exploring the traditional expectations surrounding masculinity—especially as they relate to power dynamics, objectification, and female gratification.
Tatum famously quit his job as a roofer to become a male stripper and eventually got scouted as a model and worked with mall-rat brands like American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch, as well as fashion houses like Dolce and Gabbana. His film breakout came in 2006, when he starred alongside Amanda Bynes in the Twelfth Night riff She’s The Man (as well as the gritty indie A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) and, soon after, opposite his wife in the dance movie Step Up. The first live-action G.I.: Joe movie helped Tatum continue to age up his image, as did his subsequent stint as a serious romantic lead in films like Dear John and The Vow.
Then came the comedy blockbusters 21 and 22 Jump Street and the explosive, water-bottle-bursting popularity of the Magic Mike franchise. With these projects, Tatum proved he really is the man who can do it all—farce and sincerity, comedy and chemistry, dancing and dorkiness. Throw in a memorably short performance in The Hateful Eight and his unforgettable, tap-dancing turn in Hail, Caesar! and it’s undeniable: this man is a star for this generation.
Looking ahead, Tatum’s prospects keep looking good. His latest release before The Lost City, Dog, has been a massive hit. (To promote that film, publicists sent heart-shaped pillows to press emblazoned with the actor’s face and the words “I Woof You.”) And it won’t be long now before Tatum stars in Zoe Kravitz’s directorial debut, Pussy Island, as an eccentric tech mogul. The pair’s bike rides through the East Village—and her gentle roasting of his Crocs in a promotional interview—quickly made them the hottest couple of summer 2021. And all of this will lead into Magic Mike’s Last Dance. Looks like it’s a pretty good time to be a himbo—and an even better one for those of us who love them.