Dora and the Lost City of Gold
2019, PG, 102 min. Directed by James Bobin. Starring Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, Madeleine Madden, Eva Longoria, Michael Peña.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Aug. 16, 2019
This feature film adaptation doesn’t try to be as explicitly educational as the Nickelodeon cartoon it’s based on, Dora the Explorer, wherein a spunky 7-year-old would pause along her adventures with a monkey named Boots to break the fourth wall and teach her rapt audience of tiny tots a new word. But Dora and the Lost City of Gold proves edifying nonetheless – in the way it embraces values like kindness, resilience, and curiosity, and nudges young viewers to consider a more sophisticated emotional terrain.
Did I mention it’s also stupid charming? That has everything to do with the titular heroine, aged up to be a high schooler and played here by the dazzlingly charismatic Isabela Moner. Home-schooled in the jungle by her explorer/professor parents (Longoria and Peña), Dora is shipped off at film’s beginning to the big city and her cousin Diego’s family, while Mom and Dad go off in search of a lost Incan kingdom. Navigating high school turns out to be a lot more dangerous than anything she’s encountered in South America, and the funny, fleet script by Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, The Five-Year Engagement) and Matthew Robinson (The Invention of Lying) mines some quick – but never cheap – laughs out of Dora’s fish-out-of-water status before wisely getting her back to the jungle on a new adventure.
There are a few meta shenanigans that nod grinningly at the original cartoon, but mostly the filmmakers take a sincere and straightforward approach. The overall vibe is JV-squad swashbuckling, evoking The Goonies and the Indiana Jones films for a tweens-and-under demographic, and all without the exhausting quippiness of the Lego franchise.