REVIEW: ‘Dora’ offers a fun adventure for the family

Adaptations of kids shows can go wrong sometimes but fortunately, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” isn’t one of those films.

The movie, in a way, acts as a sort of sequel to the actual animated series, following Dora (Isabela Moner) as a 16-year-old. After growing up for most of her life in the jungle with her family, Dora’s parents send her to live with her aunt and uncle in California, as they have an expedition to go on.

There, Dora has to experience high school with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg). However, while she’s optimistic at first, her upbeat attitude takes a hit because of her experience in public school. When Dora and some of her classmates are abducted by treasure hunters, though, she has to both learn to connect better with other students while also relying on her knowledge of nature to survive.

“Lost City of Gold” is one of the better live action family films in recent memory. While the film’s story is mostly predictable, it’s still constructed fairly well with the first act showcasing Dora’s move to the United States and the middle portraying relationship building between her and her classmates. The movie’s runtime is also nicely set at about an hour and 40 minutes and there are very few lulls, as there are always new challenges for Dora to face.

While not necessarily being faithful to the show, considering this is about Dora in high school, “Lost City of Gold” still honors its source material. There’s just a right amount of self aware, referential humor and the movie also features a really clever, funny animated sequence.

It’s also noticeable that the movie took time to incorporate educational aspects into the picture. During the film there are scenes where the lead characters have to problem solve, using studies like astronomy and geometry.

Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

“City of Gold” also benefits greatly from Moner as the titular character. She has the good-hearted nature and optimism that the character is remembered for, but Moner’s performance doesn’t portray a blind optimism. While the character is upbeat for the most part, she’s portrayed here with doubts and concerns about her parents well being and how she’s perceived at school.

The supporting young cast is pretty good too, with Madeleine Madden and Nicholas Coombe playing Dora’s classmates and Wahlberg as Diego. While their characters do fall into stereotypes, the movie doesn’t go too over-the-top with tropes and the performances are perfectly fine for a family feature.

Experienced actors such as Michael Pena, Eva Longoria and Eugenio Derbez round out the cast fairly well, but it’s the younger performers that carry things for the most part.

“Lost City of Gold’ isn’t a flawless movie, though. One bizarre factor that was really noticeable and detracting was the fox character Swiper. For some reason, Swiper the Fox in this movie could talk and was voiced by Benicio del Toro.

Now, OK fine you have a talking animal. The problem is Boots the Monkey didn’t talk. There’s never an explanation why this one fox can talk and no one seems surprised by this fact. I get Swiper was basically a must in a “Dora” adaptation, but either all the ‘main’ animals talk or none of them do.

Another issue in this “Dora” was some of the eye-rolling humor. It wasn’t so bad that it makes a person cringe or groan, but there are some gags that really fall flat here. A prime example revolves around a scene with quick sand. That’s not to say all of the film’s humor is a mess, there are laughs for the family here. However, some poor comedy attempts do stand out.

Overall, though, “Lost City of Gold” is an above average movie for a family audience. It probably won’t be remembered as a classic, but for a family weekend watch, it’s worth admission. 3.75 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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