By Laurie Coker
“We are explorers, not treasure hunters,” Dora’s professor parents tell her. Dora and the Lost City of Gold, director Jason Bobin writers Nicholas Stoller, Matthew Robinson clearly appreciate the highly popular Nickelodeon animated series Dora the Explorer, seriously. Their adaptation, however, reaches for a far wider audience. Actress Isabel Moner gives audiences an older, but equally exuberant jungle-ologist.
Dora (Moner), six when the film opens plays jungle explorer with her cousin Diego (Jeffery Walhberg) but he has to return to his life in the city. Ten years later, her parents Elena (Ava Longoria) and Cole (Michael Pena), send Dora to stay with Diego and his family while they continue their search for the Lost City of Gold. Dora finds herself in a much more treacherous jungle – high school – where her zealous positivity annoys Sammy (Madeleine Madden), the school’s over-achiever, amuses Randy, the resident nerd and wimp and embarrasses her cousin.
Moner is adorable, picture-perfect, as the teenage Dora. Her effervescence and positivity pour off the screen and Dora steals the show. The rest of the cast, while cute and clever, do not shine as much as Dora in a sun costume, doing the peacock at the school dance. The adults have extremely limited roles in the movie, except for Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), who infuses himself in the group when he rescues them from a crate in which they were carried to the jungle, is even more annoying than Dora. In fact, most of the adults in Dora and the Lost City of Gold appear cartoonish, all except Dora’s abuela (Adriana Barraza), who perceptive and wise for her entire three minutes one screen.
Unlike the series, in which Dora teaches Spanish and more, this real-life version lacks any education value, except that is, for a few bilingual snippets and some clever (not so hidden) messages about being different, accepting others and staying true to family and friends. “High school is LIFE or DEATH,” according to Diego. Nothing, at least not apparently, sways Dora’s enthusiasm and optimism.
Filled with the requisite poo jokes (Dora sings a song about it) and slapstick comedy kids will love and not so subtle truisms that will appeal to their parents, over all, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is cute. It also plays out a good deal like an amusement park ride with water rides and spills, tumbles down hills and a few CGI, awe-inspiring thrills. Dora and her crew warrant at least a C+ in the grade book. Under-tweens should love it.