Reviewed by: David Cook
Teamwork (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Importance of family
Being a kind person—a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)
Feeling alone among hundreds of other kids at school / “do not fear, for I am with you…” (Isaiah 41:10)
Isabela Moner … Dora
Danny Trejo … Boots—the monkey (voice)
Benicio Del Toro … Swiper—the fox (voice)
Q'orianka Kilcher … Inca Princess Kawillaka
Eva Longoria … Elena
Michael Peña … Dora's Father
Temuera Morrison … Powell
Eugenio Derbez … Alejandro Gutierrez
Jeffrey Wahlberg … Diego
Madeleine Madden … Sammy
Haley Tju … Isa the Iguana (voice)
Adriana Barraza … Abuela Valerie
Pia Miller … Diego's Mother
See all »
See all »
Paramount Pictures Corporation
“Explorer is her middle name”
As a father of five children, I have been well versed in Nickelodeon’s popular childrens’ show “Dora the Explorer” over the last decade. So, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” seemed like a logical movie adaptation for me to watch in preparation to show my children… a couple of whom are very sensitive viewers.
As a child, Dora lived in the jungles of South America with her explorer parents. She played with her cousin Diego and her pet monkey Boots. Each day was a new adventure, and she even had a quirky habit of including her fictitious home audience. She was a bit odd, but her life was perfect.
Fast forward ten years—Dora (Isabela Moner) is now a teenager, Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) has moved to the United States, and her parents are preparing for their biggest adventure yet… this time, without Dora. Change is happening. Dora must move to America to live with her separated cousin and attend a real high school. Her persistent positivity, colorful clothes, and passion for learning isolates her from the other apathetic students. Even Diego is embarrassed by his overzealous cousin. Dora feels alone. She misses her home and her parents.
When things feel like they can’t get any worse, Dora, Diego, and two other students are suddenly kidnapped from a field trip. The kidnappers are searching for Dora’s parents and the treasure they may have unearthed. The four teenagers find themselves captive in South America with no hope. Unexpectedly, they are rescued by an old friend of Dora’s parents, Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez). He is a bit incompetent, but he has freed them nonetheless. Together, they must find Dora’s parents before the kidnappers do… through the jungles where Dora just so happens to feel the most comfortable.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” doesn’t seem to know who its audience is. Is it aiming for the preschoolers that currently watch the animated series and respond to the TV when Dora asks questions? Or, is it reconnecting the teens and preteens that once enjoyed the show and now embrace the nostalgia? The film attempts to straddle the fence of both age groups, and by doing so, they have made a movie that is appealing to neither. At one moment, there is slapstick action with talking animals… in the next, characters are threatened by a frightening witch doctor. The humor is infantile, but the action is truly perilous. Depending on the age, kids will be bored to tears or scared to death.
Isabela Moner (“Instant Family,” “Sicario: Day of Soldado”) is delightful but a bit overwhelming as Dora. Her smile is contagious, but there is little beneath her charming façade. Newcomer Jeff Wahlberg offers very little in the role as Diego. He is morose when he reconnects with Dora in high school, and nothing changes even as their mundane routine turns into a global adventure. The best part of the film is Michael Peña (“Ant-Man,” “Crash”) as Dora’s brilliant but nerdy father. He appears in very few scenes but steals each of them.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” tries to teach constructive messages like positivity, teamwork and the importance of family. Unfortunately, the film fails to execute on these messages. Dora is truly kind—a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), but her positive attitude is mocked and challenges no one. Teamwork (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) is suggested, but it is diminished to holding hands and jumping simultaneously. Family is lauded but undermined by parents separating in the name of exploration.
At one point, Dora explains—she never felt alone by herself in the jungle, but feels alone among hundreds of kids at school. This is a powerful statement that will ring true for many young people today. I wish the film further explored topics like this and took seriously the challenges that young people face on a daily basis. Feeling alone can be frightening, but God tells us, “So do not fear, for I am with you…” (Isaiah 41:10). Again, the film introduces this powerful topic, but nothing materializes.
The film certainly leans toward positivity, but there are some elements that may be inappropriate for young audience members. There is mild language—“Oh my G*d,” “stupid,” “freaking,” etc. A man’s bare chest is shown, and an animated character takes his clothes off and shows his behind. Characters discuss “mating” in both the animal world and human world. The biggest concern in this movie is that it may be frightening to young children. An eerie witch doctor is introduced who performs magic. Kids are kidnapped during a field trip. Characters almost die multiple times: drowning, quick sand, booby traps, and falling into a fiery pit. Once again, teenagers may be fine with these elements, but it doesn’t seem geared towards them.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” could have succeeded. It could have been a silly adventure for my 4-year-old, or it could have been a personal journey of growing up for my 13-year-old… but it couldn’t decide. As a result, it’s an hour and a half of incongruent scenes with no rhyme or reason. By the way, I don’t think I’m being a curmudgeon. My screening was well attended by families, and no one reacted to anything—no laughs, no screams, no reactions whatsoever… it was like a whole bunch of emotionless Diegos.
By the way, there was no Baby Jaguar, but I did see a brief cameo by the Troll that lives under the bridge.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.