Dora and the Lost City of Gold Review: Surprisingly great summer flick for families
Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that going into the live-action adaptation of the iconic Nickelodeon animated series Dora the Explorer – I was expecting the worst. Frankly, the trailers had this cheesy look to it and they never really made me feel like I was seeing the cartoon come to life on-screen. Even having Dora be in high school and go on a Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones adventure was always a head-scratcher to me and I questioned whether the film even had a chance at being remotely good. The film legitimately became the butt of my jokes for months; however, I’ve been proven wrong – mostly.
There’s definitely a lot of things that you can nitpick about the film, however Dora and the Lost City of Gold has enough balanced humor, fun sense of adventure, and interesting takes on what the iconic character is known for to be a fun summer flick for the whole family.
The film follows an older Dora (Isabela Moner) that goes from exploring the dense jungle to the rough and tough world of high school. With her not growing up with other people around her age, Dora’s adventurous, positive, and energetic attitude make her an anomaly to those around her – especially her cousin Diego (Jeff Walhberg), who doesn’t share the same enthusiasm as he did as a child. However, things change once Dora, Diego, and a couple of her classmates, are kidnapped by an unknown group of criminals that are searching for a hidden treasure. Now, with the help of her friends and her trusty primate companion Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo), Dora must trek through the jungle to find the treasure and stop the bad guys.
Even with the big changes that this new film brings, Dora and the Lost City of Gold actually contains some very faithful nods to the original series. The opening is solid live-action recreation of the opening for the animated cartoon, there’re moments where Dora asks the audience to respond and kind of teaches them Spanish, and even the idea of Dora using songs comes into play with some iconic tunes from the show making an appearance and there’s even a new song added that leads to an incredibly funny scene. There’s even a great moment where there’s a strong nod to the animated version that was surprising to see and easily one of the best moments in the film. What makes this film so faithful, though, has to be the stellar performance from Moner that really brings the spirit and energy of Dora to life.
Right from the start, Moner brings Dora’s spunky personality and confident attitude to the forefront of the film and this aspect of Dora’s personality is played with to create some great comedic moments. With everyone else being panicked and more pessimistic about their situation, seeing Dora be so happy and not wanting to give up in comparison leads to solid banter and funny moments. This leads Dora to become perfectly cynical at times with her kindness almost coming off as shade and it made me laugh every single time. With Dora being older, there’re also new kinds of lessons and issues for Dora to have that are pleasant to see here. While she’s still having trouble with a swiping fox from time to time, Dora actually deals with being outcast and there’s an interesting discussion on the ups and downs of being alone. It’s something that’s nice to see with an older version of Dora and the ideas and messages are solid for both older and younger viewers.
The other performances are also pretty great and add some great humor to the film. Wahlberg is solid as an older Diego, but I can’t help but feel like he was relegated to be too small of a character. All he services to do is be a mentor to Dora at times and have a romantic connection with one of their classmates, Sammy (Madeleine Madden), and it just never seemed like he was given much to do. Speaking of Sammy, she actually also has some funny moments as the kind of politically correct/social justice warrior student. The film plays with her constant desire to be the best and to be intimidated by Dora and even her coming to the school’s costume dance as R.B.G. got a chuckle out of me. The other classmate that tags along, Randy (Nicholas Coombe), is pretty much your stereotypical gaming nerd, but Coombe’s performance is so charming that it’s easy to forget how generic he can be at times. My surprise favorites, though, actually ended up being Boots and Swiper (voiced by Benicio Del Toro). Both them have the spirit and charisma of their respective animated counterparts, and Del Toro’s voice, while definitely strange, worked well in creating a fun and lively version of the iconic character.
Now, like I said before, there’s definitely a lot of cringe-factor that still comes from this live-action adaptation. The effects aren’t the best and even for what I said about Swiper and Boots, they don’t blend into the environment at all – especially Boots. There’s also a certain level of cringe that comes with Boots when you hear Trejo’s voice as him that’s stranger rather than comforting for the scene it’s attached to. Honestly, everything with Dora’s parents just made me cringe and it has nothing to do with Michael Pena or Eva Longoria’s performances, but more with their dialogue at times. Some of the humor really doesn’t hit and I wish with having an older Dora that the humor would reflect this change most of the time and not focus on poop jokes and cliché humor. Obviously, this film aims to please a younger audience than the 23-year-old that I am, and it will likely do that, but some of the humor is just cliché and doesn’t work. The story is also bland for the most part with Dora and company pretty much just rolling through a greatest hits of clichés from other adventure films. The entire final act especially feels this way and even the big villain “twist” is just plain dumb.
The one big takeaway that viewers can have from Dora and the Lost City of Gold is – don’t doubt Dora. There’s definitely a sense of passion, inspiration, and excitement that can be seen with this live-action adaptation that’s perfect summer fun for families. For an iconic series full of great lessons, this adaptation has ultimately taught me a more valuable lesson that I didn’t expect – don’t judge a book by its cover.