Director: James Bobin
Starring: Isabela Moner, Madeleine Madden, Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Q’orianka Kilcher and Benicio Del Toro
Run time: 1h 42m
American educational television show Dora the Explorer is 19 years old. The actual character is seven years old, but for the purposes of her first live-action movie and to make her accessible to all ages, she’s become a 16-year-old played by 18-year-old Isabela Moner. Keeping up?
Dora is not your average teenage child. She’s been raised in the jungle by two archaeologist parents (Pena and Longoria), is friends with a monkey called Boots and regularly races exotic animals such as Pygmy elephants whilst recording her escapades with a GoPro camera. As her folks decide to hunt for the lost Incan city of Parapata, Dora must stay with her cousin, and former best friend, Diego (Wahlberg) in Los Angeles and learn how to deal with a different type of beast; surviving High School.
Eternally optimistic, yet lacking in social awareness, Dora quickly realises that navigating school life can be every bit as dangerous as what lurks in the green wilderness. We’re quickly introduced to a couple of kids destined to be part of the fun; brain-box Sammy (Madden) is threatened by Dora’s intelligence and geeky Randy (Coombe) is just happy to be spoken to by a girl. A trip to the Natural History Museum doesn’t go as planned and before you can say, “Jumanji”, Dora and her friends find themselves welcomed back to the jungle on a quest to find her missing parents and the fabled lost city of gold. Teaming up with the mysterious Alejandro (Derbez) she uses all her survival skills to get them home in one piece. Throw in a tiny bit of teen romance and you’ve got yourself a film.
Leading from the front, Isabela Moner is instantly likable and showcases superb comedic and action skills with a confidence beyond her years. Charming without being too sweet and ballsy without being too arrogant, her star quality shines through and puts her in a prime position to be this particular generation’s Lara Croft. The rest of the cast all make the most of what they’re given, but it would’ve been nice to have seen more of Michael Peña as Dora’s dad. His rather unique style of delivery, a highlight of the two Ant-Man films, as well as his chemistry with Longoria warranted exploring.
Director James Bobin along with writers Matthew Robinson and Nicholas Stoller cheekily poke fun at Dora’s animated roots. There’s a trippy, hallucinogenic jungle boogie whilst her breaking of the fourth wall and spontaneous songs are explored with a wink and a nudge. Although the limited budget is apparent with some questionable CGI, it all adds to the charm of the overall feel and manages to provide more entertainment than some of its wealthier blockbuster cousins.
Borrowing from other adventure films such as The Goonies, National Treasure and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, there’s more than enough to keep the kids amused and to give the adults a comforting sense of nostalgia. Dora’s first big screen adventure is a delightful family romp and a very promising start to a potential new franchise with Isabela Moner being the real find.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold opens its treasures on August 16th.