2 Oct 2019

Movie review: Dora and the Lost City

From At The Movies, 7:32 pm on 2 October 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold sees kids' favourite Dora the Explorer all grown up and off to high school.

The film may be cashing in on a popular title, but it's funny enough that you won't feel ripped off – or swiped, as Dora might say.

Simon Morris: Dora the Explorer was a popular TV hit with tiny tots a few years ago, about a 6-year old Latina girl called Dora and her adventures in the Jungle with her cousin Diego, her monkey Boots - and you!

Dora was very big on audience participation.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold keeps some of that, then re-imagines her 10 years later aimed at… well, I'm not quite sure who it's aimed at.

My TV-watching days somehow managed to bypass the Dora the Explorer years.

I remember the name - the power of a good rhyming title! - but I know nothing more than it was about Dora, and she went in for exploring.

I suspect the creators of the film version may not have done a lot more research than me.

The original series started on TV's Nickelodeon channel about 20 years ago and followed the adventures of a little Hispanic girl as she and her pet monkey Boots explore the jungle.

There's a talking backpack, a kleptomaniac fox called Swiper and a song for every occasion.

Well, some of this stays in the film Dora and the Lost City of Gold.

The new brief for the film is to aim it at young high-schoolers now, so the sooner we get Dora away from her parents in The Jungle - no longer generic but now located in Peru - the better.

She's sent to Hollywood California by her parents where she meets up again with her cousin Diego.

I'm not sure why Four is the magic number for teen friends in this sort of story - whether it's Jumanji or Scoobie Doo - but that's what happens here.

Dora may be an odd-one-out oddball, but within minutes she's teamed up with earnest cousin Diego, goofy Randy and haughty Sammy.

They're on a school trip to a museum when they get separated from the group.

"Ola, Dora," says a sinister attendant who looks for all the world like Tem Morrison.

It is Tem Morrison, one of the few non-Latino actors in the film.

Dora and her new super-friends are gassed, thrown into an aeroplane and when they wake up they find they're in a rather familiar-looking jungle.

The villains of the piece are mercenaries - boo, mercenaries! - led by Tem and also a masked fox called Swiper. Wait, what?

No sooner can you say "don't worry about it" when an excitable new character arrives - Alejandro, a friend of Dora's parents, who invites Dora to find Mum and Dad on their treasure hunt, and then be sent back to Hollywood.

The story of Dora and the Lost City of Gold is pretty much built into the title.

There's a lost city of the Incas, tucked away in the back of the Peruvian jungle, and made, rather impractically, out of gold.

Dora's parents have a map and they know where it is. Michael Peña and Eva Longoria are having a very good time.

The mercenaries - and Swiper the Fox - want to swipe it.

Now I should point two things out here.

First, queues for Dora and the Lost City of Gold aren't exactly reaching round the blocks, and maybe the film was spreading its net too wide. Teens or tiny tots, pick one.

And second, I found myself regularly amused.

Director James Bobin was the man behind the Flight of the Conchord series, and his attitude on this gig is if you can't amuse everyone you might as well at least amuse yourself. It's often very funny.

And the young cast, led by Isabela Moner as Dora, are all hard-working and appealing.

The film is a potentially blatant example of cashing in on a popular title - it is called Dora and the Lost City of Gold, after all.

But nobody disgraces themselves, and no audience will feel ripped off. Or swiped, as Dora might say.

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