“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” (2020)
Running time: 102 minutes
Written by: Nicholas Stoller & Matthew Robinson
Directed by: James Bobin
Featuring: Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, Madeleine Madden, Danny Trejo and Benicio del Toro
Sammy: “There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal.”
Dora: “There are a lot of things more dangerous than a wounded animal. A healthy animal, for starters.”
Released recently on Blu-ray and DVD is the live action adaptation of Nickelodeon’s television series “Dora the Explorer” (2000-present) in the thematically titled “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” (2020) which focuses on a young Latina girl in a very modern yet adventurous way as well as highlighting her experiance within her own culture as well as being influenced by a very international audience, it really is something unique that I find welcoming as a European who has had some South American exposure.
What is refreshing about this jump to the big screen is the way in which it has been thought out as well as casting a Dora who has energy, humour as well as the dramatic chops needed to pull this movie together and to lead it for almost the entire running time in the up and coming actor Isabela Moner last seen stealing the show in the above average dramedy “Instant Family” (2018). What could have been a junior version of either the ‘Indiana Jones’ or ‘National Treasure’ franchise instead has its own version of treasure hunting, action, drama and jeopardy without feeling like either a rip off, a parody or worst of all something that feels homogenized and too far from its source material.
Director James Bobin and co-writer Nicholas Stoller launch with the cartoon’s memorably theme tune. Within minutes, a six-year-old Dora (Madelyn Miranda) is breaking the fourth wall and asking the audience if they can say “delicioso” (in the original TV show, Dora would teach viewers Spanish words and phrases).
Dora has grown up in the rainforests of Peru, home-schooled by her parents (a zoologist and an archeologist, played by Eva Longoria and Michael Peña respectively). They are explorers, the film insists, not treasure hunters, in one of its gentle swipes at colonialism. Now 16 years old, Dora (Isabela Moner) is being sent to the city, aka Los Angeles, to attend high school with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) while her parents search for Parapata, the lost Incan city of gold. A relentlessly cheery brainiac with a propensity to burst into song, she soon earns the nickname Dorka, turning up to a themed school dance dressed as her “favourite star” – the sun. Moner is a magnetic, sunny screen presence. Seeing Dora navigate the wilds of high school would’ve been entertaining enough, but a kidnapping places her and her classmates back in the jungle.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is not a satire, nor is it an attempt to crossbreed Nickelodeon’s popular bilingual character, who made her first TV appearance in 2000, with “Mean Girls.” Even as it strikes a gently irreverent tone, the film also embodies its heroine’s positive energy: We understand that the world would be a better place if the rest of us were more like Dora, not the other way around.
The Indiana Jones-style high jinks that ensue don’t quite have the visual verve or breakneck pacing of that franchise, but they’re invigorated by the film’s cheekiness. Dora has to help a clueless classmate dig a “poo hole” in the jungle. Later, the kids are intoxicated by giant spores and hallucinate that they’ve become animated versions of themselves. There are jokes about neurotoxicity and dysentery. Somehow, it all works.
That’s because the film’s freewheeling, what-if quality never becomes meanspirited or gross. The director James Bobin has a casual style that serves the material well. This is a deceptively tough balancing act. Get too loose and the movie will turn into a bunch of limp comedy sketches; get too realistic, and it will lose any sense of what makes Dora such a beloved and timeless character. Like a child unwittingly navigating a jungle full of booby traps and deadly creatures, the film walks a treacherously fine line without ever seeming to break a sweat.
This is a movie for the entire family and definitely worth a watch if not a re-watch, I only hope that there will be more instalments.