“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” takes the animated character and raises the stakes in an all new adventure. The cast is first rate and the jokes are absolute fun. Director James Bobin made the theme, ‘be who you are’, front and center. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is Recommended.
Finding our place in the world is not an easy task and from what I can tell, it gets ever more complicated as the years go by. Coming of age stories give us insight into the struggles that, well, we all face.
Within the first three minutes of “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” writers Nicholas Stoller and Matthew Robinson along with director, James Bobin manages to not only put us in to Dora’s (Isabela Moner) world, but also to mock her for being so stuck in her ways. They do partially by breaking the fourth wall, but also by not taking life so seriously. If you lived in a palatial home deep in the jungle and isolated from humanity, wouldn’t you not take advantage?
The pacing of the first few minutes of the film gives way to a teenaged Dora who understands her place in the jungle, having been home schooled by her parents, Cole (Michael Pena) and Elena (Eva Longoria). It was easy to imagine her being prepared for any situation.
When her parents need to send Dora to the big city so that they can go on their own adventure, Dora wants to tag along, but they think that this is a good time for her to begin to integrate with other kids her own age. Pena makes a brilliantly hilarious attempt to tell Dora to avoid raves while Elena tries to offer encouragement. Pena and Longoria’s antics are not awkward because we already know that Dora is far more mature for her age.
That and the world changed while they were away in the jungle.
With that, Dora is off to Los Angeles to live with her aunt Mami (Pia Miller), Abuelita Valerie (Adriana Barraza) and her cousin, Diego (Jeff Wahlberg). They welcomed her warmly, but Diego is a typical teenager and doesn’t want Dora in his way. We understand that he has his place in the high school hierarchy and doesn’t want her in the way. At the same time, we also understand that she can take care of herself, he just doesn’t want to be embarrassed.
That’s that juxtaposition that director James Bobin (The Muppets Most Wanted, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Flight of the Conchords) wanted to create as Dora tries to make friends in a foreign environment – one would think that a jungle would be a foreign enough environment.
That’s also part of the film’s charm as Diego tries to avoid her, she attracts the attention of the class valedictorian, Sammy (Madeline Madden) and the geeky Randy (Nicholas Coombe). A class field trip to a local history museum has her feeling right at home. It is here where Stoller and Robinson invert her character as she, Diego, Sammy and Randy are kidnapped in order to help treasure hunters find her parents and Parapata, the Incan lost city of gold.
The entire film is painted as an adventure and the juxtapositions aside, we see Dora transition from each environment while managing to be herself – she doesn’t let the pressures get to her and she remains as strong as she was at the beginning of the film. As the film transitions back to the real jungle, we see the formerly comfortable teenagers now out of their element and it is up to Dora to guide them through the dangerous foliage and animals that they might encounter.
This applies equally to her encounters with the mischievous Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez) as he rescues the four intrepid teenagers when they arrive in Peru. Derbez is an absolute hoot to watch as he suffers through one pratfall after another, usually at the expense of Dora. It isn’t malicious, but it enhances Dora’s resourcefulness, and this is a credit to Isabela Moner’s performance. The antics don’t stop with Eugenio Derbez. Boots the Monkey (voiced by Danny Trejo) and Swiper the Fox (voiced by Benicio del Toro) add to the fun.
Some might feel that the movie has very few redeeming qualities short of children under the age of 12. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” reminded me of all the great adventure movies I enjoyed as a kid. It feels more like H. Rider Haggard’s “Allan Quartermain” series of books and film adaptations rather than Steven Spielberg, but “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” has something in it for the young and the young-at-heart.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold”
Directed by: James Bobin
Screenplay by: Nicholas Stoller and Matthew Robinson
Story by: Tom Wheeler and Nicholas Stoller
Based on “Dora the Explorer” by: Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh Valdes, Eric Weiner
PG, 102 minutes, A Paramount Pictures Release