When Dora the Explorer premiered in 2000 I was 12 and well out of the show’s age demographic. Aside from catching a handful of episodes when roped into occasionally babysitting I had no real knowledge of the show. So when I saw the trailer for Dora and the Lost City of Gold I was a little indifferent. Unlike other Nickelodeon properties getting resurrected I had no nostalgic attachment. I saw it on a whim, but the moment I saw James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller’s names in the opening credits I knew I was in for something special. These two when teamed up brought back the magic to The Muppets, so they had to have something up their sleeves for Dora. Credit where credit is due, they made an entertaining film.
“Oh look Dora brought a knife.”
After a fun and slightly self-referential opening we see a teenage Dora (Isabela Moner) leaving the jungle for the first time and experiencing the modern world. When her parents (Michael Pena and Eva Longoria) go missing Dora and some cohorts must go back to the jungle, track them down, and save the day. It’s all pretty run of the mill, but done with some fun twists. First, the film doesn’t shy away from its roots making multiple references to the original animated series. We also get a nice balance of breezy adventure and coming of age journey.
The first act allows us to follow Dora and get a feel for her new life. The fish out of water trope is a well worn one, but still pretty fun. Moner shines in these scenes infusing such unbridled earnest kindness. We’re also given stock characters found in any school setting, but once again they’re elevated considering the genre and source material. Once we get to act 2 and return to the jungle we get a fun breezy adventure. The plot points are pretty standard punctuated with some fun moments. (There is one moment where our cast is in a field of flowers that will crack most people up.)
“There are a lot of things more dangerous than a wounded animal. A healthy animal, for starters.”
I lightly touched on this previously, but the big plus of this film is a cast anchored by a pitch perfect lead. Moner is takes this new older iteration of Dora and makes her positivity infectious. Seeing a young woman who is comfortable in her own skin, aware of what others think of her but not caring, and rarely lacking in confidence is something that is refreshing and important nowadays. Co-stars Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, and Madeleine Madden don’t get a ton to do with their roles, but make their characters more endearing than annoying. Longoria and Pena’s roles are pretty minute, but again add a nice layer to the film. Benicio del Toro also pops up, but I don’t want to spoil an amazing reveal. Making a live action kids film that is entertaining for their target audience is tough.
Making one that can also be enjoyed by adults is even tougher. I may not have been the demographic this film was made for, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bobin and Stoller prove they’re a great team who can make a fun film and I cannot wait to see where Isabela Moner’s career goes. Between this and Instant Family she shows great promise as an actress and I wish her nothing but the best. Dora and the Lost City of Gold not necessary to see this one on the big screen, but it will make for a fun rental on family night.
Overall Score 3.5/5
The Shameless Plugs
Check out the Back Lot 605 podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, and YouTube. Follow us on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Check out our movie buddy Fat Dude Digs Flicks for some awesome reviews and movie insights! Check out Jameson Pfeifle’s review of The Kitchen. Also, check out our interview with the curator of the Dancing Spider Film Festival. Next week we will take a look at toy properties made into feature films! Finally, check out the Sioux Falls Film Community and Sioux Falls Film Actors groups.