Friday, August 16, 2019

Movie Review: "Dora and the Lost City of Gold" (2019)

Director: James Bobin
Year: 2019
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Dora is a teenager who has grown up in the jungles of South America with her explorer parents. She has recently moved to Los Angeles to attend high school. While on a field trip to a museum, Dora and a few of her classmates are kidnapped by mercenaries who hope she can lead them to her parents, who disappeared looking for the lost city of gold, Parapata.

Movie still for the 2019 film Dora and the Lost City of Gold where Isabela Moner talks to Eva Longoria and Michael Peña about going to high school
"I have to be myself. It's all I know how to do." (Image Source)
We know what you're thinking...because we thought the same thing. How can a studio make a movie that will be enjoyed by a wide-ranging audience when its source material comes from a cartoon developed for preschoolers? Director James Bobin and writers Tom Wheeler, Nicholas Stoller, and Matthew Robinson somehow accomplish the impossible in "Dora and the Lost City of Gold." This movie shows how Dora (Madelyn Miranda) was raised in the jungles of South America by her parents, Cole (Michael Peña) and Elena (Eva Longoria), who are both explorers studying the Incan empire. Now that Dora (Isabela Moner) is a teenager, her parents think she should build social skills with people her own age. They send her to live with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) in America. The relentlessly positive Dora has trouble adapting to life in the city, but she soon gets thrown back into her own environment when she, Diego, and their classmates Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and Sammy (Madeleine Madden) are abducted by mercenaries while on a field trip to the natural history museum. These greedy treasure hunters hope that Dora can lead them to her parents, who disappeared looking for the legendary Parapata, the Lost City of Gold.
Eugenio Derbez, Nicholas Coombe, Jeff Wahlberg, Madeleine Madden, and  Isabela Moner sit and scream in a movie still for the Dora the Explorer movie "Dora and the Lost City of Gold"
"Treasure hunting bad, exploring good." (Image Source)
We didn't expect much from "Dora and the Lost City of Gold." As we said, it is based on a show whose target audience is the under seven crowd, so emphatically not us. The director and writers have shifted the film's focus. Instead of making it for the little ones, they've made it palatable for pre-teens and teenagers, which is a much more box office-friendly audience. The best way to describe "Dora" is "take a dash of Indiana Jones's archeological adventures, then add a pinch of the fish-out-of-water scenarios from "Crocodile Dundee," mix it with a hefty helping of self-aware meta-humor, add a steaming side of poop and fart jokes, then stir to combine." This recipe is anchored by the standard family film message about being yourself and believing in yourself. If you're a "Dora" purist, don't worry, director James Bobin doesn't totally ignore the source material. The film starts out showing the audience exactly what a direct live-action adaptation of the "Dora" show would look like if she spent 100 minutes asking the camera/audience if they knew how to say words like "delicioso." That's great for a bit of humor, but it also serves to help the audience realize how awful that style of delivery would be for a feature-length flick. Still, Bobin does manage to work in some of the 'fourth wall breaks' that were synonymous with the show, and these moments are always good for a laugh.

Isabela Moner does a great job as Dora, and she captures the spirit and cheerful disposition of the character perfectly. Dora's undying optimism makes her wholly endearing as a protagonist. Eugenio Derbez is also terrific as Alejandro, who must help Dora and her "friends" find Dora's parents. Derbez is such a charismatic actor that he lights up the screen merely with his presence. Derbez and Moner are part of the reason we smiled and laughed a lot more than we expected to. Still, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. There are some things about this movie that are a little eye-rolling. The humor can be incredibly juvenile, but this is a kids movie and is not made with us in mind, so it's to be expected. Also, despite having a strong female protagonist in Dora, it still has a stereotypical supporting character in Sammy, who spends the entire movie complaining and usually useless. Sammy reminded us of Bridget Fonda's character Kelly Scott from "Lake Placid." Kelly was supposed to be the smartest person in the room, but once she got out of her comfort zone, she became overly irritating. She ultimately only existed to be the romantic interest of a more prominent male character. It's the same with Sammy, though to a lesser degree. Sammy comes around eventually, but it takes almost the whole movie to get there.
Movie still for Dora and the Lost City of Gold where Boots the Monkey eats the bottom of his shoe in the jungle
"No monkeys in the city!" (Image Source)
There is more good than bad in "Dora and the Lost City of Gold." It reminds us of the old-school family adventure films we grew up with. People of all ages are sure to find some enjoyment in this movie.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.6/10
RT Rating: 82%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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