Dora the Explorer, Nickelodeon’s legendary children’s program, is a show that was well after my time, so I was relatively blind going into the live-action adaptation. I knew she had a cousin named Diego, a monkey named Boots, the bad guy was named Swiper and he swiped, and that Dora would ask the screen questions to help its viewers learn. I can’t imagine there is a lot of other things to know about the show, though I could be wrong.
Regardless of your relationship with the animated show, whether you’re like me and only know the gist of it or you know a lot about the show because either you or someone you know – maybe a child – watched it, Dora and the Lost City of Gold will entertain everyone. This movie is an absolute blast. A fun, funny, sweet, exciting film about being yourself, being weird, and being positive in a negative world.
Dora (Isabela Moner) has spent her entire life exploring the jungle with her parents (Eva Mendes and Michael Peña). Knowing nothing but the isolated forest life, Dora’s parents send Dora to California to live her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and learn the life of a “normal” teenager, which includes going to high school, a task that’s tougher for Dora than a rampage of elephants. Though high school is a very different world, Dora doesn’t change who she is, being outgoing, smart, and never shying away from saying to anyone, traits that aren’t “cool” in this high school era. When Dora’s class goes on a field trip, she, along with Diego and two other students, Sammy (Madeleine Madden) and Randy (Nicholas Coombe), are kidnapped by mercenaries who are looking for Dora’s parents who know where to find Parapata, the lost city of gold. With the help of another explorer, Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), Dora and her friends escape from the mercenaries and begin on their own to find her parents and Parapata before the mercenaries do.
Isabela Moner is sensational as Dora. Playing the live-action version of an animated children’s character, Moner plays the roll with enough energy, fun, and earnestness that you can’t help but love. She really brings the character to life, giving us an adventure seeker reminiscent of Indiana Jones, only with a headband and magical backpack rather than weathered fedora and whip. This is such an endearing, fun performance that should make Moner are star. The rest of the cast is really good, with some really chemistry between the teens, but this is the Moner show.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold offers up plenty of wonder and adventure. We don’t get adventure films quite like this anymore. Every set piece is creative, colorful, and exciting, pitting our hero and her friends up against some wild obstacles. The best set piece is the trippiest one, as Dora, Diego, and Alejandro walk through a field of giant flowers that release a pollen that essentially gets the three of them high and they turn into animated versions of themselves. It’s a crazy scene, yet one I couldn’t help but laugh at and be amazed that they did. It really elevated the movie from just a “kids movie” to a great adventure movie.
The best part about Dora and the Lost City of Gold is the message that movie brings. Having grown up in exotic forests all of her life, Dora is considered weird by everyone in her high school, including Diego. But even with being weird and not fitting in with typical high school kids, Dora stays herself. She doesn’t hide the fact that she has plethora of knowledge, she doesn’t hide her dance moves, and she doesn’t hide her enthusiastic smile and mood. This attitude translates into the forest, where Dora must keep her terrified friends safe and from losing their minds, while also using her wits and skills throughout the journey. Dora represents positivity which, in a world with so much negativity and pessimism, we cannot get enough of. But she also represents always being yourself. Don’t let others dictate what you want to do and what you want to feel. Don’t be afraid to express what you are passionate about and let others know it. These are great messages that can resonate with everyone regardless of age.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a late summer gem. Don’t go into this expecting it to be only a kids movie. This movie will appeal to all ages and all genders. This is a rousing adventure film with plenty of laughs, thrills, great themes, and a star-making turn by Isabela Moner.
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