As a parent I am very familiar with Dora the Explorer. While my kids were born in the later stages of the Nick Jr. cartoon I often sat with them while Dora and her cousin Diego went about their animated, pre-school adventures. So when I first learned that there would be a feature legnth adaptation of the source material I knew that it could go one of two ways – a 90 minute recreation of the preschool cartoon show or a live action re-imagining that was Dora in name only.
This film is neither of those two things but is closer to the second one.
The live action Dora and the Lost City of Gold leans heavily into the franchise’s roots, which is no better exemplified than the opening of the series. The movie starts with what feels very much like we’re watching a live action rendition of the cartoon’s opening credits, full on with an updated version of the theme and 3D rendered Boots and Swiper. The scene soon transitions to both Dora and Diego sitting in a cardboard box car, Diego with a plush jaguar clutched in his arms, as they’re imaging their adventures. Diego soon moves to America leaving Dora and her parents in the jungle as her parents continue on their exploration expedition.
Jump ahead 10 years and we meet a teenaged Dora who is still full of the pep and positivity we know from the adolescent character. That positivity is actually kind of magnetic, even though some of the characters in the rest of the film are first very put off by it. Dora’s parents want her to have a normal life and so they send Dora to live with her aunt and uncle (and cousin Diego) in America.
As we soon think that we’re going to get just another “coming of age” story of a teenage girl in America (and maybe a spiritual sequel to Mean Girls) the movie takes a sharp turn as Dora, Diego, and two other unwitting school chums are kidnapped and shipped back to the Jungle as treasure hunters want to use Dora to find her parents and the lost Incan city of gold that they had been trying to find.
In every way what comes in the rest of the film feels very akin to the Indiana Jones movies. Except instead of the way that Indy is on an intentional expedition, Dora and friends are dropped into the jungle unexpectedly and have to come together to find her parents and their way out.
Much of the film is kind of silly, but then again pretty much every film that covers the exploration of ancient ruins like the Indiana Jones or The Mummy series could have the same criticism. They’re just meant to be fun popcorn movies, and Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a fun popcorn movie.
Isabela Moner does a great job in embodying the spirit of the character of Dora. She plays the character as a positive and energetic young woman very well.
If you have young ones that watched or still watch the pre-school cartoon then they will enjoy Dora and the Lost City of Gold. It is family friendly and parent friendly, with much to be enjoyed from all ages.