CERT: PG | DIRECTOR: JAMES BOBIN | SCREENPLAY: NICHOLAS STOLLER, MATTHEW ROBINSON | STARRING: ISABELA MONER, EUGENIO DERBEZ, MICHAEL PENA, EVA LONGORIA, DANNY TREJO, BENECIO DEL TORO | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
These days, when you hear the words “Live-Action Adaptation” uttered from someone’s lips, that phrase is met with grumbles and groans due to the current poor track record of said projects. However, that trend is about to change courtesy of Director James Bobin with his incredibly entertaining and endearing take on the beloved Children’s TV character Dora the Explorer in Dora and the Lost City of Gold.
Set in the depths of the Peruvian jungle, young Dora lives with her explorer parents Cole and Elena (Peña and Longoria respectively) and dreams of following in their footprints. After reaching the age of 16, Dora (Moner) is sent by her parents to “The City” to live with her cousin Diego (Wahlberg) and attend High School to learn more about the world. After she finds out that her parents have been kidnapped while searching for Parapata, the Lost City of Gold, Dora along with Diego, class know-it-all Sammy (Madeleine Madden) and social outcast Randy (Nicholas Coombe) are whisked away by mercenaries to Peru, where they must escape and become fully-fledged explorers to find her mum and dad and discover the secret of their surroundings.
On the surface, this may seem like any other licensed cash grab, but it is so much more. The film knows exactly the audience it is playing to – that being all age ranges from young children to adults and families – and crafts an impressive blend of charm and self-aware humour to appeal to everyone in the auditorium. For the kids, we have fan favourite characters such as Boots the monkey and Swiper the devious fox making their big-screen appearance, and for the older members of the audience, we have some fantastic performances and character development, especially from Moner as our leading lady. Simply put, there is something for everyone.
After Dora ventures to “The City”, her child-like innocence of not understanding the correct protocols in society is hilariously played off by Moner’s wonderful acting ability (in this instance, think Crocodile Dundee but with a teenager having to traverse school for the first time). Earlier in the film, they include Dora’s trademark action of breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience – this is cleverly played off as something that “she will grow out of” by her parents. As the film progresses and our heroes venture into the jungle, they encounter the likes of quicksand, jungle puzzles, and deadly traps – essentially painting this film as a family-friendly, and at times, educational, alternative to that of Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones.
Along with great chemistry between all the characters and some solid action set-pieces, Dora and the Lost City of Gold has buckets of charm and a plethora of great messages for the younger members of the audience – all that and a side-splitting song about digging a poo-hole (no really!). For once, we’re graced with a truly entertaining story about a young intrepid explorer learning about her place in the world, and a live-action adaptation that was approached with genuine care and attention.