It has reached the point where I am feeling sorry for Dora the Explorer. In modern society, she has been the punching bag of little kid shows (I grew up when the punching bag was good ole’ Barney and Friends). Admittedly, I too thought it was a joke when I heard that there was going to be a live action film of the titular young heroine and was just as shocked as anyone to learn it was the truth. Still, when IMDB users (roughly 200 of them) all go on the film’s page and decide to post in the Parent’s Guide that the PG rated movie should be ranked “severe” in all categories…well, the joke has gone too far (thankfully, it was corrected).
In short, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is still a nice family flick (though much more for the kids, although I admit I found myself smiling once or twice). The film starts off where the TV show takes place, with young Dora and her cousin Diego going off on adventures in the rain forest with her faithful monkey Boots and the mischievous fox Swiper. Diego and his parents move to the city, leaving Dora and her parents (Michael Pena and Eva Longoria) in the rain forest.
Flash forward ten years, and teenage Dora (Isabela Moner) is still her upbeat self, eager to explore and help her parents find the Lost City of Gold. Of course, her parents don’t think she is ready to help, so she is sent to live with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg, nephew of Mark) and his family, as she explores her greatest challenge yet: High School. Soon, Dora finds herself back in the jungle with Diego and two new friends, the somewhat reserved Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and the rather high strung brainiac Sammy (Madeleine Madden), as they search for her parents who have gone missing. They still have to encounter Swiper the Fox (Benecio Del Toro), but still have the guided help of Boots (whose one scene of speaking is done by none other than Danny Trejo).
The screenplay tool of “fish out of water” has been used countless times, yet it works here, mainly because of the sheer dedication of Isabela Moner. Even the most savage of haters will admit it takes a lot to carry a movie, especially if the source material is of a former six-year-old explorer who talks to the camera (which the movie does playfully nod at). Moner never loses her appeal, even when she is singing about situations you would never think anyone would sing about in any genre of film. Even when other obscure things happen on screen, she is still herself, and it is rather impressive. In short, it is a performance worthy of respect.
As stated before, parents should not look at the user contents on IMDB. It is rated PG, with some minor action and peril, but no swearing or nudity. There is one scene that does contain flowers making certain characters hallucinate in a rather comical and bizarre way. Nonetheless, any age is fine seeing this film.
One of the key aspects of Dora’s philosophy (as taught by her parents) is that she is an explorer, “not a treasure hunter.” For kids, this could be a valuable lesson when it comes to Christianity. The exploring of God’s word (i.e. reading the bible) is its own treasure, wisdom that surpasses all (see Proverbs 3:13 and 8:11).
I was about the age of eight when the original Jumanji (the Robin Williams one) came out. It had its scares but was still fun at the time. Like that film, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is intended for kids over adults (though there are still some things adults would like). The special effects are not anything great (like Jumanji, which has CGI that is borderline laughable), but it is not entirely the movie’s fault (not every movie has the money that a Marvel film would have). It gives lessons to kids (along with the aforementioned one on treasures) that other movies have done in the past, like believing in yourself and the value of teamwork.
The spirit of Dora and the Lost City of Gold is still rather contagious and makes me even willing to say that the film is more enjoyable than any of the recent Disney Live Action Remakes.