Dora and the Lost City of Gold
If you’re not part of the age group who grew up happily addicted to the adventures of Dora the Explorer, the idea of a watching a live-action Dora wander around the screen for a couple of hours sounds potentially gruesome. It’s not all little Dora’s fault; I’m not clamoring for a Teletubbies movie either, you know?
But somehow “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” manages to hit just the right blend of nostalgic affection, sincerity and snark. There are jokes about Dora, but it never feels like the character is the butt of the joke. James Bobin was the ideal man to direct this project; he achieved a similar kind of magic with 2011’s “The Muppets.”
As presented here, Dora (initially played by Madelyn Miranda) is not much different than the cartoon version. She lives in the jungle with her parents. Her best pal is an adorable monkey, Boots.
She’s bilingual and more cheerful than a 1950s Mouseketeer. She also addresses the camera directly. “Can you say ‘delicioso’?” she exclaims during a particularly yummy meal. Her parents wonder who she is talking to. “Maybe she’ll grow out of it?” they mutter.
Flash forward 10 years, and Dora’s parents are off to Peru in search of a wondrous treasure. (Just to observe, not to pillage, we are repeatedly told.) Dora is sent to live with her cousin Diego in California. Isabela Moner takes over the role, and she is perfect: Her Dora is utterly guileless, open, happy and lacks any trace of irony. Moner manages to make that blend of qualities endearing and not obnoxious.
Soon, she winds up with Diego and a couple of pals from high school in the jungle, trying to track down her parents with the aid of Alejandro (a scene-stealing Eugenio Derbez), a friend of her parents.
The movie happily skips along from one set piece to the next. Hey, the gang is stuck in quick sand! Wait, now they’re on the lam from bad guys! Hold on, now they’re in a field full of gigantic flowers with hallucinogenic properties! That trippy last bit, by the way, inspires some of the film’s biggest laughs, especially for fans of the series.
After a certain point, a certain sameness begins to set in, but the movie merrily chugs along, powered by Moner’s winsome performance and the character’s happily feminist slant. Even if you’ve never watched a whole episode of “Dora the Explorer,” you’d have to be a grinch not to be slightly charmed by the whole thing.
All and all Dora and the lost city of gold is expertly done, embracing itself for what it is while not alienating the rest of the more grown up audience. I think Nickelodeon has is on to something that many have tried and failed in the past and I for one will keep this one as one of the best family films of the year.