Dora and The Lost City of Gold Review

Let’s talk about Dora and The Lost City of Gold.

This is a bit ridiculous isn’t it? While Dora the Explorer is much beloved as an educational but entertaining show for very small children, it’s not the sort of show that seems right for a live action adaptation. If you were to make a very direct adaptation, it would inevitably end up like the Oogieloves, an interactive movie which makes around £50. But surely if you age it up, which is the direction that this movie has decided to go with, it would just be embarrassing for the now older target audience. Children are often very quick to hate what they once loved as they are desperate to prove that they have grown up so is there even an audience for this? But most importantly, is it any good?

Dora is now a teenager and wants to explore the jungle but as her and her family get closer to discovering a mythical Inca city, her parents send her to the city so she can be safe. After struggling to adjust to life in high school, she and three of her friends get kidnapped and she must try and her save her parents before villains find this Incan village and steal all of the treasures within.

The movie gets off to a pretty decent start. It basically does a live action version of the original show with a younger Dora much more reminiscent of the TV show. They handily explain that the original TV show was an imaginary game that she and her cousin Diego did and even make jokes about the format of the show. Dora looks at the camera and tells the audience that the meal she is eating is delicioso and then asks us to repeat after her, like in the show. That’s when Michael Pena as her father dismisses it and says it’s just a phase and that she’ll soon grow out of it. This not only gets the movie off to a good start, but pretty much tells you that the movie is going to be a bit more grown up and will not just be squarely aimed at the children in the audience but also the adults with them that also grew up with Dora. Oh crap the people who grew up watching the original Dora cartoons could legitimately be bringing their children to see this, that’s terrifying.

Unfortunately, Dora then has to go to school. You know when you saw the trailers and the jokes were awful and you dismissed the movie instantly? Yeah, that’s this part of the movie. This twenty minutes of Dora going to high school may be the worst twenty minutes of any movie this year. It’s full of the same cringeworthy jokes that you’ve seen in a million other high school movies with generic bullies, lots of petty drama and that only exists because this is a movie world and jokes that land flatter than a world record attempt at a pancake toss. It is incredibly painful to watch and if you are a parent with your kid to see this, your heart must sink. You must be dreading that the entire movie is like this and wondering if it’s possible to slip out of the cinema and leave your child in their on your own and still be considered a good parent. The answer is no by the way, you got yourself into this mess and you are just going to have it to wait it out.

But for the first time ever, the kidnapping of four teenagers massively improves things. When Dora and her friends end up back in the jungle, things get back to a decent quality and this becomes a rather fun knock about adventure movie. Nothing particularly amazing, but pretty enjoyable. The high school petty drama and jokes end and the characters are allowed to breathe a little, though the plot rarely stops for anything but the briefest bits of character development and exposition. Dora is hoplessly naive as a character, because she was raised in a jungle, but while that came off as endlessly annoying when in high school, it does work when they are in the jungle. Also you get to see her jungle smarts which makes for a fun contrast. The other three characters also get to be quite funny and while their personalities are not exactly developed and well formed, they are fun brush strokes that are nice to be around.

It’s weird as the movie seems to be have been written by two different people. One person wanted to do something really creative with the property, do something surprising and give it an edge it didn’t previously have. The other wanted to shit out some lazy rubbish so that he could clock off early and spend the rest of the day in the pub. And we’ve ended up with something in the middle. This movie is incredibly creative at times, making jokes you wouldn’t expect and doing things you didn’t see coming at all. There’s a surprisingly funny poo joke, if you are an avid gardener with a child this will ruin your life so a fair warning, and Dora straight up kills a dude using a poison frog. I know there’s some evidence in the movie to say it didn’t kill the henchman, but we never see that character again so I’m going to say Dora killed them. But then the movie will make those cringeworthy jokes or do something stupid and things get dragged down again.

It’s worth saying that the movie is still flawed in other ways. The movie looks exceptionally cheap with awful early 2000s era CGI. Both Boots and Swiper look terrible and there’s one moment where the former is eating a pillow. It’s meant to be a tiny moment in the big scheme of things but it looked so fake that it has stuck with me for a while. There’s also the sets which look more like Jungle Run than the real rainforest. Then again that just reminded me how awesome Jungle Run was so can’t complain at that. The editing is also not great at times with some scenes looking like they been cut together by an mad axeman. There’s a few other minor flaws which are mildly irritating and unfortunately add up.

Before I wrap up, I want to talk about Isabela Moner who plays Dora. She’s been in a few other things such as Instant Family and Transformers: The Last Knight but she was rather forgettable in both. But given a starring role in this movie, she is rather fantastic. This is a risky role because if it goes wrong, you are going to be tarred with the Dora the Explorer brush forever and have your career killed. But despite the script itself being a minefield for her, calling for a very upbeat, naive Dora who could easily come off as incredibly irritating, she manages to put real heart into her performance and make her into a real person. On the basis of this performance, I think Moner could become a massive star in the next few years and I look forward to following her career.

Dora and The Lost City of Gold is far better than it has any right to be. This is a live action update of a pre-school cartoon, it should be up there with the worst movies of the year. While it is no where near great and I’m not giving it any sort of recommendation unless you have kids who are already fans of the series, it is still pretty decent. This is a fun adventure movie with likable characters and a dark edge which makes it a bit more interesting than it could have been. Yes, it may be shocking to read and I’m pretty surprised to write it, but the Dora the Explorer movie is alright. Bloody hell, they did it.

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Former Head of Movies for Screen Critics. Film Reviews now hosted on Medium.

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A Guy Who Talks About Movies

A Guy Who Talks About Movies

Former Head of Movies for Screen Critics. Film Reviews now hosted on Medium.

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