25 Aug 2019


If you don’t know the song to Dora the Explorer, then you probably weren’t a child in the early 2000s or don’t know a kid now. As the father of a toddler who loves the Nickelodeon show, I have seen enough of it with him to know the characters and themes of the educational animated TV series. And with all the rubbish that passes as entertainment for young audiences these days, I might even say that as a parent, I’m a fan.

That’s why I was surprised that they were making a live-action adaption of the series, and not an animated movie. Having seen it, I can tell you that you may have extreme reactions to Dora and the Lost City of Gold.

If you’re a parent, a child who watches old episodes, or a teenager who grew up with the characters, then you may like or even love the film. In many ways, this is the best live-action film of Dora that they could have done. Directed by James Bobin, who’s no stranger to the audience with films such as The Muppets (2011), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), the film hits you with juvenile comedy, Dora fan service, action, themes of empowerment, and more.

The film tells us about the origins of the young explorer. She’s the daughter of two explorers herself, Cole (Michael Peña) and Elena (Eva Longoria). Having grown up wandering the Peruvian jungle in search of the hidden Inca city Parapata, she hasn’t experienced an American high school.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold stays true to its roots and is the best live-action film of Dora that they could have done

When Dora is 17, her parents finally locate the lost city. Here, they send Dora to be with her childhood friend and cousin Deigo, who is a student in LA. This makes for some amusing moments as Dora faces challenges with acclimatising. I suspect many of the younger audiences will relate to her here.

Initially, I was surprised that Dora and her friends weren’t written as 13-year-olds to suit the source material. However, these are kids in their late teens who behave with the intellect of 13-year-olds, which makes for some funny moments.

Eventually, our heroes are kidnapped by some henchmen and taken to Peru. With the aid of another explorer (Eugenio Derbez), they escape, and here the film begins to entertain with fan service. Yes, we meet Dora’s nemesis, the thieving orange fox named Swiper (Benicio del Toro). And yes, the film has the line: “Swiper, no swiping!”

This certainly got a chuckle out of me. Interestingly, no one reacts at the sight of a talking fox, but Dora is surprised to hear Boots the Monkey (Danny Trejo) talk. I also liked the self-awareness. Dora and the Lost City of Gold often acknowledges its silliness when it nods at its animated counterpart.

As I said, if you have no connection to the show, then you may find Dora and the Lost City of Gold annoying. Some of the pacing and writing is uneven, while the fart jokes quickly run out of … gas. Likewise, film buffs may be unhappy at how Dora and the Lost City of Gold copies adventure films such as Indiana Jones. It pretends to pay homage, but really, it’s copying.

That being said, the film somehow works. I particularly enjoyed its uplifting messages of self-belief, overcoming unfamiliar situations, and women empowerment. I was also happy that the film stays true to its roots and featured a Latin cast. Particularly impressive is Isabela Moner in the lead role as a goofy, smart, funny, capable and wide-eyed teenage explorer. Her earnest performance makes the film work.

Rated PG for action and some impolite humour

Published in Dawn, ICON, August 25th, 2019