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Dora And The Lost City of Gold - Review

Dora & The Lost City of Gold

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ALMOST 20 years after Dora The Explorer first made her animated [and educational] first appearance on Nickelodeon, the plucky heroine now gets a live-action movie – and surprisingly endears.

James Bobin’s film has plenty to criticise but gets by on the youthful enthusiasm of its central cast and the playful stupidity of some of its older members. It also amuses in several places, while offering a worthwhile family message that feels highly relevant.

Plot-wise, it’s fairly basic. After being raised in the jungle by a pair of archaeology professors (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña), Dora (Isabela Moner) is sent off to make friends and attend high school in Los Angeles with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), while her parents set out to find the legendary city of Parapata.

Initially, Dora has trouble fitting in and is mocked for being ‘weird’, to the consternation of her cousin. But she soon comes into her own after being kidnapped with a group of ‘friends’ and flown out to the jungle by a rival set of treasure hunters who want to find Parapata for purely greed-based reasons.

Given that younger viewers are the target audience, it’s hardly surprising to find that plot arcs are fairly well defined, especially in terms of the central relationships. Hence, class boffin Sammy (Madeleine Madden) will be taken down a peg or two, while potentially finding romance, and ultra-awkward nerd Randy (Nicholas Coombe), will have moments to come good. There are no surprises, while the Indiana Jones-style scrapes they find themselves in are largely devoid of many genuine scares or any real peril.

Bobin’s film strives to retain a feel-good, silly element that is also defined by its choice of non-threatening villains. Indeed, the adults are largely around for pratfalls and to act like buffoons (none more so than Eugenio Derbez’s inept Alejandro or Pena’s soppy dad). But this, too, brings a certain kind of innocence often lacking from kids movies nowadays.

Where Bobin’s film wins points is the way in which it celebrates inclusivity. It maintains that it’s fine to be different and retains an optimism that should translate well to the audience. Hence, as naïve and sometimes annoying as the kids become at times, they remain worth rooting for and keep the right side of likeable.

A lot of the humour works too, whether it’s just plain slapstick (there are jungle pratfalls in spades), juvenile (fart and poo gags abound) or self-deprecating (such as the winks to Dora’s fourth-wall breaking educational moments).

On the negative side, the decision to turn Dora into a teenager does create a problem the movie itself cannot solve. For while undoubtedly aimed predominantly at pre-teens, the hormones inherently at play in some of the teen dynamics take the film into potentially awkward territory for watching parents.

And just as this sexual element is cagily handled, so too are some of the set pieces, which threaten more peril than they ultimately deliver. Hence, attempts to appeal to all ages may backfire given how young the overall film plays.

There are some things that don’t make sense, either, thereby creating gaping lapses in logic for the more discerning adults, while a CGI fox in a mask is just plain excruciating (the monkey fares much better).

Yet in spite of these shortcomings, Dora & The Lost City of Gold has more than enough in its back-pack to entertain. Its heart is in the right place, it doesn’t outstay its welcome and as an appetiser for the more grown-up likes of Indiana Jones and even Jumanji, it successfully leaves you open for more similarly-themed movie discoveries.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 102mins
UK Release Date: August 16, 2019