With nearly 20 years of history, the Dora the Explorer franchise has finally hit the big screen. This beloved television show was watched by kids from different generations and is still airing new episodes to this day reaching new eyes every year. But who would have thought that a children’s educational animated show would be given a live-action adaptation?
Dora and the Lost City of Gold, a film directed by James Bobin, serves as a continuation from the children’s television series but aims to add its own unique flair. The film follows Dora (Isabela Moner), a teenage explorer who is sent to live in Los Angeles by her parents out of worry that she’s adapting way too much to life in the jungle. However, her life in Lost Angeles is harder than she imagined, even with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) attending the same school as her. She tries to make friends with other kids, including Sammy (Madeleine Madden) and Randy (Nicholas Coombe) but things don’t go her way.
During a field trip to the museum, Dora is paired with Diego, Randy, and Sammy to go on a scavenger hunt. The trip is quickly sabotaged when the group is kidnapped by mercenaries who want Dora’s help in finding her mom (Eva Longoria) and dad (Michael Peña), who have gone on an expedition to find a lost city. A former friend of Dora’s parents (Eugenio Derbez) helps the teens escape and offers to help them. As their adventure continues, Dora soon finds herself in a leadership position utilizing the skills she learned from her life in the jungle.
Moner’s portrayal of the titular character both honored the original source material while also adding a much more modern take on the character. This version of Dora, to my surprise, still talks to the audience but it’s mainly played for comedic laughs. Her peppy spirit and never-ending optimism were just as prominent in the film as they were on the show. This optimism is what gives her strength in leading her friends through the jungle in order to save her parents. It also proves to be a challenge when she has to adapt to a new environment. It’s the necessary struggle that Dora needs to go through if she’s hoping to adapt to life in the big city. The film’s modern take come
It’s more modern takes comes from Dora having to attend high school in the big city and having to adapt to a new life. Several coming-of-age films deal with adapting to new environments like high school. Upon her arrival, Dora quickly makes Sammy jealous since Dora seems to know so much about different subjects. She also gets teased for where she comes from and how she acts around others. These sort of issues often weren’t talked about on the animated show. These are issues that exist in a more modern setting. They’re issues that an average teenager could go through and including them in the film speaks to that demographic.
Outside of exploring, family is the glue of Dora and the Lost City of Gold. The love that Dora’s parents have for her is strong. Clearly, they want what’s best for their daughter. They have their lives set up as explorers but want their daughter to expand her horizons into other paths, for herself. It’s evident that they love their daughter, especially since they’re willing to send her away for a more diverse life. Besides her parents, Dora’s grandmother (Adriana Barraza) provides Dora with support during her stay in Los Angeles. It’s a bond that doesn’t get a lot of focus in the film, but it’s clear that she cares for Dora.
With Dora and the Lost City of Gold aiming to cover different age demographics, there are themes which can relate to a variety of audience members. For instance, much of the film deals with not fitting into a new environment. Dora’s transition to the big city proves to be difficult. Her optimistic attitude towards life isn’t enough to keep hurtful comments from getting to her.
Once she’s kidnapped along with her friends, she finds herself in the jungle. It’s the one place she knows and where she feels like she can be herself. However, that quickly changes since she has to deal with the dangers of the mercenaries and finding her parents. It’s a unique dilemma for Dora to face, especially since this isn’t usually covered in the tv series.
Aside from Dora, several elements from the animated series were added to the film. Dora’s cousin Diego and her best friend Boots are central figures in the film. Diego is the polar opposite of Dora, having moved to the city at a young age and choosing to leave his life in the jungle in the past. The film makes it a bit difficult to connect with his character since he doesn’t do anything for Dora when she’s being teased.
As for Boots, his design was definitely creepy. It’s had to see how they could adapt a talking monkey in a live-action adaptation without making it extremely silly, but the way he looks in the film is quite terrifying. The film does focus on his bond with Dora but not to the extent that’s seen on the show.
Swiper the Fox does appear in the film and has aligned himself with the mercenaries. Much like with Boots, Swiper’s design is subpar, making it difficult to take him as a menacing force. The animate show combines both a comedic and menacing aspect into his character that’s completely missing from the film. It would ultimately be hard to imagine how any other side characters like Backpack, Isa the Iguana, or Benny the Bull would look and fit into this live-action adaptation given that the designs for two of its most prominent characters look bad.
One of the things that caught me by surprise is the Dora and the Lost City of Gold was shot, specifically shots of the jungle that come to life on the big screen. Since it’s an adaptation from an animated show, there’s no real sense of what to expect from the cinematography. Any shot of the group walking through the jungle does a great job at enforcing this element of caution. There are several Incan ruins and artifacts that add to the educational aspect that the show is based on.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a film like this since it never really gave a clue as to who the target audience would be. However, it’s a family film that anyone can enjoy even if they haven’t seen an episode of the animated series. Dora and the Lost City of Gold touches on aspects of family, finding out who you are and where you belong. The more comedic scenes are perfectly timed, though some of the jokes don’t land well. There are even easter eggs hidden for those who still remember the show and for the younger audiences who still watch the show.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is an enjoyable movie from start to finish and it’s a film that I recommend.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is now playing in cinemas.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Dora and the Lost City of Gold touches on aspects of family, finding out who you are and where you belong.