Adapting a children’s show like Dora the Explorer to the big screen has its challenges, but Dora and the Lost City of Gold is the kind of adaptation that works as a nice tribute to the original series and an incredibly fun and fantastical adventure. It’s energetic without ever being over-the-top and it’s simply a joy from start to finish, entertaining for both children and adults alike.
At six years old, Dora (played by Isabela Moner as a teenager) is a precocious child with an unlimited imagination and a passion for exploring the jungle she lives in, just like her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña). Intrigued and enthralled by the mystery that is the ancient Incan city of Parapata, Dora is left out of the search when her parents find a lead. Instead, she’s sent off to Los Angeles to embark on the adventure that is being a high schooler. However, she’s thrown into finding the lost city after her parents’ disappearance and she, Boots the monkey (voiced by Danny Trejo), her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), and two classmates (Madeleine Madden and Nicholas Coombe) are kidnapped by treasure hunters seeking the gold of Parapata.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is very distinct and pays homage to its source material in major ways, but also stands apart from it. Isabela Moner plays Dora so perfectly and her lighthearted, positive energy is contagious. This is a teenager who is completely comfortable being who she is. That is, until she gets to high school and is bombarded by the social confines of the world, the mean kids, and has to contend with feelings of embarrassment and loneliness for the first time despite never having had any friends before.
There’s a particularly wonderful and moving moment when she admits that she’s always been alone but that she only felt pangs of actual loneliness while surrounded by her peers. As she adjusts though, Dora learns the value of friendship, while others come to accept her eccentricities. The wonderful thing is that Dora is never anyone but herself and she doesn’t ever change that to be considered worthy of friendship.
However, because it’s Dora and the original series is built around her Spanish-speaking lessons — “Can you say delicioso?” — the film would have benefited more if Spanish was spoken a bit more often. The film also walks a tightrope when it comes to Boots and Swiper, both talking animals. The film tries to maintain a sense of realism at first, but throws most of that out the window when Swiper arrives on the scene. In fact, the film is at its best when it’s mixing the realism with a touch of magic.
Just as much as it’s about growing up and facing new challenges, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is full of adventure, heart, and humor and never loses touch with any of these attributes. In fact, they work together to drive the story without ever losing momentum. Director James Bobin and co-writers Matthew Robinson and Nicholas Stoller bring to life a character who makes learning Spanish and exploring the jungle fun. Thankfully, the interpretation of Dora is never lost in live-action. With the film’s good-natured quality, genuine humor, and tribute to the animated series, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is the most fun you’ll have at the movies this summer.
With the film's good-natured quality, genuine humor, and tribute to the animated series, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is the most fun you'll have at the movies this summer.