(2019) (Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez) (PG)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Adventure: A teenager who's spent her life on expeditions with her explorer parents is sent to live with her extended family in Los Angeles, but is thrust back into the jungle with her new city friends searching for treasure.
- Dora (ISABELA MONER) is a teenage girl who has spent her whole life on expeditions with her explorer parents, (MICHAEL PENA, EVA LONGORIA) and best monkey friend, Boots (voice of DANNY TREJO). But when mom and dad are about to undertake a particularly dangerous mission, they send Dora to live with her extended family in Los Angeles and go to school with other kids for the first time.
While Dora is delighted to reunite with her cousin, Diego (JEFF WAHLBERG), who she used to share her South American jungle adventures with as a child, she immediately feels the effects of culture clash in the States. No one likes to sing and make up songs in her high school or think positively or learn about ancient cultures. On her first day, she draws the wrath of honor roll student Sammy (MADELEINE MADDEN) and the schoolboy crush of nerdy classmate Randy (NICHOLAS COOMBE).
On a field trip to a local history museum, a group of mercenaries led by Powell (TEMUERA MORRISON), and a sneaky orange fox named Swiper (voice of BENICIO DEL TORO) kidnap Dora, Diego, Sammy, and Randy to force Dora into helping them find a fabled lost city of gold that her parents have been looking for. They are rescued by Alejandro (EUGENIO DERBEZ), a colleague of Dora's mom and dad who may not be what he seems.
- OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
- Maybe I am patting myself on the back here. But I don't care. Seeing "Dora and the Lost City of Gold" makes me proud that I try and go into each movie as a reviewer with an open mind. Another live-action update of a cartoon was not something I was looking forward to. And it wasn't even a big, major Disney cartoon, but an animated TV series that my now-14-year-old daughter was into for maybe a summer or two as a little girl. She was much more into "Phineas and Ferb," "Handy Manny," and ultimately "Gravity Falls" and "Over the Garden Wall" (may none of those be given the live-action treatment).
As a result, I did have a working knowledge of Dora's songs about animals and natures and geography. I knew the catchphrase "Swiper, no swiping!" And I was familiar with side characters like Boots the monkey and Diego, Dora's similarly adventure-loving cousin. They're all here in this movie. But you wanna know what else is here? A smart screenplay ... a marvelous sense of play ... an involving adventure tale ... and some really spot-on casting.
The film honors everything that kids and kids now grown-up love and/or fondly recall about the show. But it doesn't snark up the story to appeal to kids who've become cynical teenagers or parents forced to accompany their little ones. The MVP here is writer-director James Bobin and co-screenwriter Nicholas Stoller, two of the main creative forces behind "The Muppets" feature-film revival in 2011 with Jason Segal. Here, they once again achieve just the right amount of loving homage to the original show and a knowing irony that putting these characters in a real-world setting is an opportunity for commentary and laughs.
Isabela Moner is great as the teenage Dora here, who goes to live with her extended family in Los Angeles after spending her first 16 years on jungle expeditions with explorer parents (Michael Pena and Eva Longoria). For the film's first act, it's a classic "fish out of water" story with the cheerful, inquisitive, fearless Dora trying to fit with sullen, moody teenagers of today. Eventually, though, she, her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and two classmates are kidnapped by mercenaries and taken back to South America where Dora is forced to search for her missing parents, who the mercenaries believe have found the fabled Lost City of Gold of the film's title.
Along the way, we get hijinks with both Boots and Swiper (not the best CG creations, but whatever); we get Dora making up songs, much to her companions' chagrin; and, every once in awhile, we get Dora or someone else saying a word in Spanish and Dora stops the film to ask the audience "Do you know what that means?" Meanwhile, the other characters peer into the camera, too, wondering who the girl is talking to.
Those bits are knowing winks and quite cute. But there are also some funny one-liners sprinkled throughout, too. For instance, when Dora's high school rival warns that she's a wounded animal and there is nothing more dangerous, Dora innocently counters, "Actually, a healthy animal is often a LOT more dangerous!"
And Bobin and Stoller take inspiration from some smart sources, too. Certainly the "Indiana Jones" movies (especially "The Last Crusade" and its climactic navigating of ancient temple booby traps), but also such popular entertainments as "The Wild Thornberrys," "Jumanji," and the "Spy Kids" flicks. The vibe is consistent throughout. And, honestly, this was one of the most purely entertaining movies I've seen this summer. Check it out. Vamonos! I give it a 7 out of 10. (T. Durgin)
Reviewed August 3, 2019 / Posted August 9, 2019
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