They did it! They made a live action version of Dora the Explorer with Dora and the Lost City of Gold. But will you be shouting hurray, as Dora and her sidekick Boots did so often in the beloved Nickelodeon animated series for preschoolers?
What is it about?
First, the premise: in Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Dora has grown up and is going to high school. I have to admit I was groaning at the notion when I first heard about it. I was worried about a take on Dora with inappropriate references, or one that spoofed her innocence to the point of meanness. I am so happy that didn’t happen.
The movie does a nice job of capitalizing on the humor of Dora’s guileless good nature in a fish-out-of water scenario. In the movie, homeschooled Dora (Isabela Moner) has resided in the jungle with her professor parents, who are professional explorers. Dora and her parents are obsessed with finding a lost Incan city that contains a treasure trove of gold. But Dora’s parents emphasize they aren’t treasure hunters. They want to learn about an ancient culture for humanity’s enrichment.
During her parent’s latest expedition, which they deem too dangerous, Dora stays with her cousin Diego’s family in Los Angeles. High school proves to be downright hostile toward Dora’s ultra-chipper personality and relentless optimism. Even teenaged Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) has a hard time accepting her.
But then Dora and Diego wind up on a school field trip with two other misfits–the most popular girl in school (Madeleine Madden), who is also the most hated, and a quirky introvert (Nicholas Coombe) who is the target of bullies. Treasure hunters kidnap Dora and friends in order to locate Dora’s parents in their search for the lost Incan city. Before they know it, the kids find themselves in the Peruvian jungle.
Should you watch this movie with your kids?
It’s wonderful to see a Hispanic cast of characters on the big screen. We need more of this kind of diversity in kids’ movies, and Hispanic families are not often portrayed in Hollywood films.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold capitalizes on audiences’ insider knowledge of the animated series. The movie winks at the audience and manages to pay homage to the original. The target audience for this movie seems to be older kids and tweens 8 to 11.
Keeping that in mind, the director James Bobin of Muppets Most Wanted fame worked in plenty of humor catering to that crowd, including the potty humor that seems to be required for any kids’ movies nowadays. Familiar characters including Dora’s devoted pet monkey Boots and Swiper the masked fox bandit make appearances as computer-generated characters. Because the world of the movie is cartoony in tone, they don’t seem out of place.
As Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com pointed out, it would have been fun to have the entire movie center around Dora’s high school experience. But the Indiana Jones-inspired set pieces are always an audience favorite, and it’s nice to see them played up in a movie appropriate for kids.
I will say that the movie is definitely not for preschoolers and too scary for five and under. It includes scenes such as the teens getting gassed right before the kidnapping, and danger around every corner in the jungle. But overall, it is family friendly and entertaining.