“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is not a movie for the kids of today; it’s a movie for the kids of yesteryear.
The film, directed by James Bobin, stars Isabela Moner as the famous pink-garbed bilingual explorer but she’s not the adolescent we know and love. Dora the Explorer is grown up in this adventure film. The film features a brief prologue and then promptly fast forwards to Dora as a sixteen-year old sent to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin Diego, played by Jeffrey Wahlberg, nephew of actors Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. She experiences an excess of culture shock between her life in the jungle and her new life in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She becomes part of a “Breakfast Club”-esque, ragtag group after getting kidnapped from a museum and tasked with finding her missing parents with the aid of a family friend, Alejandro played by Eugenio Derbez.
The first thing that should be mentioned about this movie is that it is incredibly self-aware. During the prologue sequence, the young Dora does one of her typical fourth-wall breaks to much confusion from her mother and father, played by Eva Longoria and Michael Peña, respectively. She talks directly to an audience that is clearly not there by looking into the camera and asking the imaginary audience to say “Delicioso.” Her father responds with a simple, “She’ll grow out of it.”
Watching Dora interact with her new urban environment is truly entertaining because even though she is 16, she has been sheltered by her archaeologist parents in the jungle. She has no concept of social norms past what she knows from interacting with her parents. She is shown to high school by her cousin Diego who has since grown out of any love of the jungle and has even become cynical towards the world from a rough time in high school. This is where the movie loses a little ground. It starts to feel a little less like a major motion picture and more like a retake of “Zoey 101.” The characterizations start to become archetypal to the point of nausea. Dora and Diego become paired with a typical “queen bee/goodie two shoes” girl and a nerdy, awkward “gamer guy.” These characters, like most high school characters in TV movies, have no particularly strong personality traits.
The film plays on old adventure/archaeology-based movies by having various traps and wild dangers for Dora and friends to conquer. Ultimately, the puzzles they have to figure out have “both ways” syndrome. All this amounts to is that some puzzles are perfectly tailored to the people in the group and others seem completely random. This assortment of storytelling techniques feels very purposeless and haphazard and does not make for a cohesive film.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” takes the audience on a journey back home to our television sets and creates something new too. The film receives a B-minus rating.