I’m not what you might call a Dora stan. I have nothing against her, and I even have a measure of respect for intrepid young women who are curious and resourceful. But I’m a billion and a half light years too old to be watching her show – though I believe I did about 700 million years ago as a babysitter. Had Dora been on TV that long, or is she just living an extended life on Netflix?
The movie doesn’t ask you to know much about the Dora universe; you could easily jump right in and be the 5th wheel on her trek through the jungle. If you do know the show, you’ll be delighted by several in-jokes; the movie is not afraid to poke fun of its origins, and those little touches separate Dora and The Lost City of Gold from others in its genre.
In the cartoon, Dora is a 6 year old, but the movie, unwilling to imperil a small child, instead chooses to imperil a slightly larger one, aging her up a decade, but keeping her innocence and hair band intact, though neither of those things makes her very popular in high school.
Little Dora was raised in the jungle by her professor/explorer parents, Elena (Eva Longoria) and Cole (Michael Pena). But when they’re preparing an epic and intensive search for Parapata (a lost Incan civilization, the film’s titular city of gold), they send Dora (Isabella Moner) away, to a proper big city with actual schools, and worse, peers. High school turns out to be an even more dangerous place. And while she’s happy to reconnect with cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg, nephew to Mark and Donnie), it doesn’t last long because she and a small group of students are kidnapped by mercenaries trying to find her parents, and not incidentally, all that lost gold.
Thus ensues an epic adventure, the kind only Dora could have, which is to say: filled with monkeys who may or may not wear boots, foxes who may or may not swipe, and songs that may or may not be about pooping. So even though Dora has boobs, she’s still a youthful, fun-loving gal who embraces the absurd (adorably, her grown-up back pack is designed in such a way that it appears to have a smiling face). There’s some very common denominator humour in here that had the kids in our screening spitting out their popcorn in delight. Truly, there was a variety of hoots the likes of which I have possibly never experienced before in a theatre. Moner is winning and lovable in the role, and what more could you ask for? It ticks all the boxes, occasionally manages to surprise and delight, and if I’m being honest, it exceeded my modest expectations, so I’m chalking this up as a win.