PLOT: After spending her childhood growing up in the Amazon, Dora (Isabela Moner) is sent to live with relatives in L.A while her parents (Michael Pena & Eva Longoria) set out in search of a mythical lost city of gold. On a class field trip, Dora and some of her new friends, including her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), are kidnapped by mercenaries bent on discovering the city of gold for themselves, using Dora as a way of enticing her parents to help them.
REVIEW: Being an adult in his mid-to-late thirties, “Dora the Explorer” is a show I have virtually no knowledge of whatsoever. Based on the name, I guess she’s an explorer? So, if you’re looking at this review as a way of knowing whether or not the film does the TV show justice, I honestly can’t say. However, taken on its own merits, DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD is an agreeable family adventure that should please young audiences and not prove too grueling an experience for the parents they have in tow.
SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO’s Isabela Moner plays the teenaged Dora, and she’s certainly an energetic, agreeable lead. The way Dora’s depicted here, as cartoonish without any knowledge whatsoever of the real world, kinda reminds me of how THE BRADY BUNCH were depicted in those updated films from the mid-nineties. Much of the humor is mined from Dora’s interactions with her much more cynical peers, including terminally embarrassed cousin Diego, played by Mark Wahlberg’s nephew, Jeff – in a likable debut. Once the kids wind up kidnapped and running through the jungle, Dora comes more into her own, but she’s presented as a sunny, comic hero throughout rather than a Lara Croft type. I mean, you wouldn’t get Lara Croft singing a song about digging poo holes in the jungle.
Rather than prove annoying, this comic vibe is quite likable. It helps that director James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, in addition to their work on THE MUPPETS, also have edgier creds between them including “Flight of the Conchords” and FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. They keep it pretty PG, but there are a few oddball moments, such as when Diego and Dora trip on some pollen and briefly turn into cartoons.
In limited roles, Eva Longoria and Michael Pena have fun as Dora’s supportive parents, while Eugenio Derbez is the clumsy associate they’ve sent to collect Dora (or have they???). Derbez has a few really funny bits, such as his reaction to surviving quicksand, while younger co-stars Nicholas Coombe and Madeleine Madden are likable as Dora’s classmates. The most prominent co-star here is Dora’s CGI monkey, Boots, who briefly speaks with the voice of Danny Trejo while apparently, Benicio Del Toro (of all people) voices the bad guy fox, Swiper. I would have never known!
DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD is also an exceptionally colorful film with nice photography by THOR: RAGNAROK DP Javier Aguirresarobe. It helps that the pace is kept pretty bouncy throughout and overall, this is a fun flick for kids or tweens to check out with their folks. Is it good enough that everyone should make it a priority? Maybe not, but for young audiences, this is solid kids fare that parents won’t hate.