Friday, August 9, 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

I wasn't expecting too much from a live-action adaptation of Dora the Explorer, but I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised by what I found in Dora and the Lost City of Gold. Far from perfect, the film does have charm and enough brains to both celebrate and poke fun at the educational animated series which spawned it by having Dora (Isabela Moner) raised by her parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) in the jungle helping to explain her quirks (such as talking to her backpack or making up songs about the most mundane things). Although ultimately not as successful, it's tone and humor reminded me of 2007's Nancy Drew.

In Moner the film's producers chose wisely. She's just sweet, honest, and precocious enough to make us buy this version of Dora who is forced to leave the jungle and stay with family while her parents go off on their latest adventure in search of a lost city. The film offers not one but two fish-out-of-water plots as happy-go-lucky Dora struggles in the city to fit in before she, her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), and two new friends (Madeleine Madden and Nicholas Coombe) are kidnapped back to the jungle by treasure hunters seeking the lost city.

While smart enough to have some fun at Dora's expense, the script by Matthew Robinson and Nicholas Stoller isn't without its issues. There are more than a few head-scratching plot problems (such as why no one comments about a talking fox but for some reason it's odd that Dora talks to a monkey?). Smart enough to take some shots at treasure-hunting cliches, the story is still forced into using as many as possible, especially during the film's final act. In a story that relies mostly on younger actors, it's the adults which most negatively effect the story. The over-acting by Peña and Longoria becomes so tedious it borders on unwatchable, and Eugenio Derbez as a guide to help Dora in the jungle isn't that much better. The only adults who actually come off well here are the mercenaries who do as little talking as possible.

Certainly geared to a younger and more family-friendly audience, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is likely to entertain its target demographic (even if not all of its blemishes can be concealed by its perky leading lady and her wacky adventures). For those looking for nothing more than a fun distraction, that still finds ways to incorporate aspects of the show (such as Dora learning and teaching new things to the audience), a trip through the jungle may be worth the price of admission.

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