The consistently funny and action-packed ‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’ is one of the best family films of the summer.
Kernel Rating: 4.5 out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 102 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 10+. This live-action adaptation of the ‘Dora the Explorer’ television show ages its characters up to teenagers and hence involves some adolescent issues, including crushes and a kiss involving two teens, questions about belonging and fitting in, and some name-calling and bullying. A man takes off his clothes during an animated sequence and we later see him realizing his own nakedness when the animated sequence ends; a lot of slapstick humor, including a song about going to the bathroom; some scary action scenes, including teens being kidnapped, chased through the jungle, trapped in a building with skeletons and spears, and threatened with arrows and other weapons; and some implied cursing and rude language.
By Roxana Hadadi
The live-action adaptation of the popular “Dora the Explorer” children’s TV show, in which the bilingual Dora broke the fourth wall and encouraged young viewers to talk to her and participate in the episodes’ action, is a thrillingly active and often hilarious spin on that familiar formula. In a lot of ways, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” feels like a throwback, with its reliance on goofy songs and physical humor to generate laughs; there are few pop culture references here, and few snarky jokes aimed for audiences than kids. But that focus on providing a film aimed squarely at tween and teen audiences is a refreshing change, and “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” manages to be quite funny, consistently charming, and surprisingly educational, all at once.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” focuses on now-teenage Dora (Isabela Moner), who spent her childhood in the Peruvian jungle with her parents, professors and explorers Elena (Eva Longoria) and Cole (Michael Peña). Elena and Cole have devoted their lives to searching for a lost Incan city, Parapata, which is mythologized as a “City of Gold”; as explorers, they don’t want to steal the riches, but document and study them. With that guiding framework throughout her childhood, Dora is a sincere, earnest young woman—but she’s used to being alone, and when her parents send her to the “big city” in California to live with family so they can embark on a more-dangerous part of their search alone, she’s unmoored.
At school, Dora doesn’t quite fit in. Her cousin and best friend from childhood, Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), distances himself from Dora, worried about his own reputation. School brainiac Sammy (Madeleine Madden) is shocked by how intelligent Dora is, and worries that her new classmate will unseat her as the smartest kid in school. And although the slightly nerdy Randy (Nicholas Coombe) has a crush on Dora, he can’t match her enthusiasm and energy level; when she launches into animal-inspired routines at a school dance, he doesn’t join her.
The unlikely foursome is forced together, though, when they are kidnapped on a field trip to a history museum and taken to Peru so that Dora will help the bad guys find her parents and Parapata. When they’re rescued by Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), who introduces himself as a friend of Dora’s parents who is also looking to find and save them, the crew sets off into the jungle. Will they be able to find Elena and Cole, and what about Parapata?
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” benefits from being very self-aware of its source material and not shying away from the recognizable elements of the show. Dora breaks the fourth wall when she live-streams video from the jungle (“Can you say ‘severe neurotoxicity?’” she brightly asks), and the characters matter-of-factly accept the villainous Swiper the Fox, with his bandit mask and speedy moves. The film also intentionally and effectively educates viewers about Incan culture and archeology, and its focus on a multigenerational Spanish-speaking family is warm and inclusive.
The film could probably cut about 10 minutes off its ending and move a little tighter, but the “jungle puzzles” the teens encounter in the back half of the film are reminiscent of other action films like “Tomb Raider” and the updated “Jumanji,” and are exciting enough. Thanks to a humorous script, likable performances from the young cast, and a thoughtful spin on the source material, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is one of the most enjoyable family films of the summer.
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