WE’RE familiar with “Dora The Explorer” because our two granddaughters used to be fans of this Nickelodeon show that features Hispanic characters and bilingual education on Latino culture. We watched this with them, along with “Barney” and “Blues Clues”, which they all outgrew. And now, they made the beloved Dora franchise into a live action movie, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”.
It starts with Dora and her cousin Diego as kids then we jump 10 years later and Dora is now a teenager, played by Isabela Moner (who did a TV series in Nickelodeon and other flicks, but we best remember her as the feisty daughter of a drug lord in “Sicario 2”, protected by Benicio del Toro). She is perfectly cast as a teenaged Dora with her innocent aura and wide eyed charms. Playing her parents are Eva Longoria (who gained weight since “Desperate Housewives”) and Michael Pena. Benicio del Toro lends his voice as Swiper, the fox, while Danny Trejo is the voice of Boots, Dora’s pet monkey.
Dora spent most of her life living with her parents in the Amazon rainforest, but now that she’s a teenager, her parents send her to Los Angeles so she can interact with people her age in high school, which is an altogether different adventure for her as she becomes a veritable fish out of water. She is reunited with her cousin Diego (Jeffrey Wahlberg) who is often embarrassed by her being “jologs”.
We were initially apprehensive that the movie version would bore us, but Director James Bobin has come up with an entertaining narrative while managing to stay true to the characters and familiar tropes of the cartoon series. Dora remains to be a confident and courageous girl with a good-natured guileless attitude, a resourceful mind and an indomitable spirit. This makes you really root for her.
Along with Diego and their classmates, the domineering Sammy (Madeleine Madden) and the nerdy Randy (Nicholas Coombe), they are kidnapped by some bad guys who are looking for Parapata, the fabled Inca’s lost city of gold. A mysterious man (Eugenio Derbez) who claims to be a friend of Dora’s archaeologist parents shows up to help them escape and they figure in an action-adventure tale that will remind you of the movies of Indiana Jones where the characters have to figure out puzzles to survive imminent danger, including what to do when you are stuck and sinking in a quicksand.
Our grandchildren loved it and their parents were also amused and didn’t find it tedious viewing. This is a family friendly movie offering clean fun, including a song-and-dance production number during the end credits plus a post-credits scene that you’ll appreciate if you’re a fan of the TV show. We enjoyed even the movie’s way of making fun of the old series, like when Dora talks directly to the camera to ask kid viewers to speak Spanish words. Here, there’s a scene where she suddenly faces the camera and asks: “Can you say severe neurotoxicity?” If you’re familiar with the TV show, this is really a laugh-out-loud moment for you.