No one really asked for Nickelodeon’s Dora The Explorer to venture onto the big screen, and this adaptation of the children’s TV show smacked of Hollywood’s cynical cash-grabbing antics from the off. However, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised, as this live-action take is actually a charming bit of fun that should delight the tweens and keep the more seasoned viewers awake enough to catch the final credits.
Director James Bobin (who brilliantly brought back the Muppets to the big screen in 2011 and 2014 with The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted) and co-writers Nicholas Stoller and Matthew Robinson tell the story of 16-year old Dora, who leaves the jungle she grew up in for Los Angeles. Things don’t go to plan in high school, however, as Dora and her new friends are kidnapped and shipped back to the jungle to find the titular lost city of gold.
The filmmakers preserve what made the show so beloved in the first place and Bobin brings his signature blend of self-awareness to the story: the educational nature of the animated series is acknowledged, as the fourth wall is broken early on by our intrepid polymath who, keen on teaching the audience some elementary Spanish, asks us if we can say “delicioso”. Throughout, the film’s most endearing quality is the sunny Isabela Moner, who lights up the screen as the extroverted teen explorer; she ensures that the overly familiar second half never lacks spark. Indeed, the first act’s energy does deflate somewhat as the film becomes increasingly familiar, bogged down with flatulence gags and heavy-handed cues when it comes to its influences. The last act yields few surprises and is pretty much cribbed from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Thankfully, Bobin doesn’t overdo the post-modern flourishes, even if he never quite hits the sweet spot. His latest film never reaches the hilariously self-parodying heights of his Muppets films and one can’t help but feel an extra smattering of weirdness could have really elevated the finished product. That said, Dora And The Lost City Of Gold remains a charming, fun little romp that is better than it had any right to be. Can you say “película divertida”?
Dora And The Lost City Of Gold | Directed by James Bobin (US / Mexico, 2019), with Isabela Moner, Jeff Wahlberg, Michael Peña. Starts Oct 10.
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