Dora and the Lost City of Gold: Film Review

I have never seen Dora the Explorer and I had to laugh when a live-action film adaptation was announced – another animation jumping on the live-action bandwagon – but I have to put my hands up and admit Dora and the Lost City of Gold has been done really well and is the perfect adventure movie for young children.

Dora (Isabela Moner) grew up in the jungle with her parents Cole (Michael Pena) and Elena (Eva Longoria), explorers who have spent years searching for Parapata, the lost city of gold. When they go off on a mission to find the city, they send Dora to Los Angeles where she experiences high school for the first time. During a school trip one day, Dora, her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), the school loser Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and overachiever Sammy (Madeleine Madden) are kidnapped by mercenaries who want Dora to find Parapata.

When this first started, I was sure I was going to hate it because Dora is super chipper, enthusiastic and positive 24/7 and she kept doing Dora TV show traits like breaking the fourth wall to ask viewers “Can you say delicioso?” But it really hits its stride once the action moves to LA and Dora breaks free from the TV character constraints and becomes a proper human being rather than a caricature.

Moner is the best thing about this film. She showed promise with Transformers: The Last Knight and Instant Family and she is fantastic. She captures the energy and positivity of Dora from the show but makes her human, with weaknesses and doubts. She has a warm and captivating presence, she’s actually quite funny (the poo song is a personal highlight) and is also very capable in the jungle, more so than some of the adults, and that makes her a great role model for kids.

The biggest letdown for me was Eugenio Derbez as the group’s saviour from the mercenaries. I wish the character was developed a little better to aid a twist later on and I found his acting to be very annoying and silly, but I’m sure kids will enjoy it. Madden overdid things as the stereotypical control freak, Coombe was a lot of fun and Wahlberg gave a grounded, natural performance. Longoria and Pena aren’t in it much but it was amusing to see Pena doing the stupid stuff.

As you might expect, the film borrows heavily from the likes of Indiana Jones, Jumanji and Tomb Raider but the adventure is fun and it’s refreshing to see a young Latina in the lead. The cast is primarily Latinx – with Benicio del Toro and Danny Trejo as the voices of Swiper the fox and Boots the monkey – and it’s great to see this kind of representation in a children’s film, as well as a mix of English and Spanish (mostly subtitled, but not always).

Rest assured that you don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this. I genuinely thought Dora was going to be awful but I was pleasantly surprised. I should have known this was in safe hands when James Bobin was attached to direct – he did so well with The Muppets. Yes, it’s very cheesy and the CGI is quite rubbish (Boots looks pretty cheap) but kids will just get swept up in the adventure. This is Moner’s show and I would happily see her as Dora again.

Make sure you stick around and watch the super cheesy musical number!

In cinemas from Friday 16th August 

Rating: 4/5

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