Director: James Bobin
Starring: Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Pena, Eva Longoria, Jeff Wahlberg, Madeleine Madden, Nicholas Coombe, Benicio Del Toro
Written by: Matthew Robinson, Nicholas Stoller, (story) Tom Wheeler, (based on the series created) Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh and Eric Weiner
Running Time: 102 mins
Release date: 9th August 2019
I have never seen a single episode of Dora The Explorer, yet I am familiar with her adventures. A cartoon girl with a talking backpack and map, who explores while teaching younger children a variety of new words, languages and historical facts. All sounds perfect as an animated show on Nickelodeon. How would a live-action version fare? Would the audience be small kids or those who grew up watching the show? In fact, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is for everyone because, and I am just as surprised as you by saying this, is absolute fun for both young and old.
Dora, a young girl, bought up in the jungles, has been sent to Los Angeles by her explorer parents. They hope she can get an education and spend time with her cousin, Deigo. They head off searching for a mysterious lost Inca civilisation. Dora finds the big city as much of a jungle as home. On a school expedition to a local museum, she, her cousin and two fellow school pupils, Sammy and Randy, are kidnapped. They find themselves back in Dora’s jungle hunting for her parents and escaping the mercenaries who need them for the golden city.
The best way to describe this film is Indiana Jones meets The Muppets. Not that the actors are puppets but because the director and co-writer, James Bobin and Nicholas Stroller, are responsible for the rebooting of the famous furry creations. This film has the same lunacy but is also incredibly respectful of the original source material. The film starts like a traditional Dora The Explorer show, with a perky young girl flying around and breaking the fourth wall, asking the audience if they can say complicated words. Move on ten years, and Dora is still a perky older girl who has the same wide-eyed energy that the younger Dora had. Everything to her is an adventure.
Once away from the jungle, she finds it hard to adapt, carrying a variety of survival tools to school and embarrassing her cousin with her care-less attitude. All of this is delightful fun. It really kicks into gear once the gang, made up of a geeky games player and a better-than-thou queen of the school, hit the jungle in search of Dora’s now missing parents. They get into all kinds of peril, various creatures and have to rely on each other to survive. This could have been annoying and cheesy. Instead, Bobin throws in visual gags to keep the kids happy and enough winks to the older audience to amuse them. A running gag about jungle puzzles raises more than just a smile.
The whole thing is pulled together by a delightful cast. Eva Longoria and Michael Pena are perfect as Dora’s parents, with Pena almost stealing the film with some amusing sequences. You’ll never be able to listen to rave music again in the same light. The trio who join Dora could have been caricatured but bring full rounded creations to the table.
As Dora, Isabela Moner is a delight. Last seen as the older sibling in the family comedy, Instant Family, she has so much energy it’s like they were feeding her six bowls of sugar washed down by coke! And yet, she could have been the most annoying of them all. However, with great comic timing and knowing when to tone things down, she carries the film with great aplomb and brings the cartoon character to life.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is perfect family entertainment that never once crosses boundaries and is also chipper and bright. There are one or two moments that might be too tense of very young viewers, but on the whole, this is terrific fun from start to finish. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, and you’ll want to sing songs about doing a poo!