“Can you say Delicioso?!”
*This review may contain spoilers*
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a children’s adventure comedy based on the animated Nickelodeon TV series Dora the Explorer, directed by James Bobin (The Muppets, Alice Through the Looking Glass) and stars Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight, Instant Family), Michael Peña (Ant Man, End of Watch) and Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives). When Dora and her friends are kidnapped by a group of mercenaries and flown out to the Peruvian jungle, they attempt to track Dora’s missing parents and the hidden Inca city of gold.
I have never seen an episode of the animated TV series, nor did I think this film would be of any interest to me. After some generally positive buzz around Dora and my partners love for the series, I decided to give this children’s Indiana Jones film a go. To be honest, it is not actually that bad!
Dora opens in the jungle, with a cute call back to the series playing out in the children’s imagination, followed by a couple of surprisingly competent jokes that had me laughing out loud as Dora looks into the screen and asks if we can say “delicioso”! Michael Peña is as hilarious as ever and manages to generate laughs for both adults and children, from a script that is generally aimed at the latter. Isabela Moner is also fantastic in the lead, creating a ridiculously positive outsider, yet likeably charismatic that doesn’t cross the border into annoying. Similar to Peña, Moner’s jokes largely land, which is more that can be said for the remaining cast. Dora and her family are the only live-action characters that didn’t annoy me, with the supporting cast doing a passable job with the relentless joke telling and cheesy quips. The set design wasn’t exactly Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and didn’t integrate unnoticeably into scenes, but I respected the detail they put into creating these reasonably large sets that are perfectly acceptable and exciting enough for the target audience.
After being transferred to a LA high school, we see some of the classic fish out of water scenes that weren’t particularly original, but watching Dora’s survival backpack being emptied by a school guard was amusing, as I began to notice that I was laughing out load frequently, even when everything else wasn’t of interest and somewhat annoying. I may not have seen the series, but even I noticed that there was an endless amount of fan service, but the fact that these moments were self-aware meant that you didn’t have to be a fan to be able to enjoy the gags. The story takes a far more exciting turn when the team enter the jungle, with a range of bright and colorful shots that are likely to keep children entertained, albeit some poor CGI that I frequently let slide. There are a handful of memorable scenes, one which sees our leads drugged by an exotic plant, producing a psychedelic trip where everything is animated and the characters are shown as their recognisable cartoon appearances. Unfortunately, everything from this point seems monotonous, with each sequence being taken from a selection of action adventure movies but with the Dora filter over it.
This is where I stop and compose myself, as it would be so easy for me to roast this film for 1,000 words, but I don’t feel like the movie deserves it. Dora does exactly what it sets out to, that being an entertaining adventure for children, with the occasional joke thrown in for parents. However, I have two big criticisms of this movie: one is the unnecessary and irritating supporting cast as mentioned before, and the second being the villain. Temuera Morrison is a credible actor and could have been a naturally intimidating villain, initially set up to be the big bad of the movie, but is subsequently relegated to a bumbling henchman of the unbearably clumsy Professor Gutiérrez. Our main villain is a moron, which we have spent half the movie seeing just how incompetent he is, from running into tree branches, being sucked into quicksand and even admitting he was an impostor! I couldn’t quite get over why we were supposed to take this character seriously, especially when we had a ready-made villain pre-built in Morrison. A relevant note to filmmakers: stop writing in plot twists for the sake of keeping the story exciting! The High School Musical style dance outro was incredibly campy, but it will get the children on their feet dancing and even I was singing along at points, which is a pretty solid metaphor for the whole movie!
Dora and the Lost City of Gold wasn’t made for an audience like myself, which is why I tuned out for much of this film. However, a solid lead performance, quick pacing between fairly exciting action sequences and some genuinely funny jokes kept me checking in with the story, making this a solid kids film that parents may or may not want to sit in on. I give Dora and the lost City of Gold a 6/10!
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