[Early Review] Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)

or “Dora Jones and the Last Crusade”

Director: James Bobin

Cast: Isabella Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo

Screenplay: Matthew Robinson, Nicholas Stoller

102 mins. Rated PG for action and some mild impolite humor.

 

Yes, I braved the long lines at an early screening and sat in front of a kid who kept kicking my seat, but I did it. I saw Dora and the Lost City of Gold. I’m not really sure what I expected going into it. I mostly like James Bobin (The Muppets, Alice Through the Looking Glass) as a director. I’ve really enjoyed actress Isabella Moner’s (Transformers: The Last Knight, Instant Family) work as she develops her skills. But Dora? A live-action Dora? How would that even work? Upon seeing the film, I can honestly say I’m still not sure how it works.

Dora has spent her whole life in the jungle with her parents and her monkey Boots, exploring and adventuring and learning. But when she becomes a teenager, her parents want her to experience normal life in a normal school with other kids while they adventure out to find Parapata, the Lost City of Gold, a quest they have spent years trying to complete. They send her to stay with her cousin Diego. Dora has trouble making friends until a school field trip ends with her, Diego, and a few other students getting kidnapped by treasure hunters who want to use her to find Parapata. The students team up with a professor who knows Dora’s parents, Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez, Instructions Not Included, Overboard), to escape the treasure hunters and find the Lost City of Gold first.

The way the film starts, I expected it to be a very self-aware comedic approach to the silliness of the property without completely lampooning it, much in the same way Land of the Lost and 21 Jump Street went about adapting their properties. Sadly, most of that attitude and humor are swept away early on in the film and it becomes a very simple adventure movie that borrows 98% of its journey from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Seriously, you can nail down large chunks of the plot and characters as being ripped from the Last Crusade. I kept waiting for one of the characters to exclaim “No ticket.”

Isabella Moner is a fabulous actress, and I think she understood what this version of Dora the Explorer needed to be. I think she’s someone who we will be talking about a lot more in years to come. I liked what she did in the Transformers film she was in, even if she didn’t have much to do, and I really liked her performance in Instant Family.

Director James Bobin should have steered more into a tone like The Muppets, but I don’t think he achieved it here, sticking too far into the family-friendly tone and losing some of the flavor that I think he’s capable of hitting. As the film went on (and it went on about 20 minutes too long), I found it becoming far too formulaic and far less fun as it hit all the necessary bits required in an adventure movie. The students that join her and Diego on the adventure could have been eliminated because they provide virtually nothing to the film.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold has some fun elements to it. It isn’t the dumpster fire that one might expect it to be. It makes fun of itself at times and if I had my niece or nephews ask me to watch it, I wouldn’t be upset. It’s just that the film could have been so much more. There’s an aspect of missed potential to it when you see the way Isabella Moner has fun with the character and some of the inherently silly attitude is at times. It’s a fine movie, but it could have been a great one.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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