Dora the Explorer, Nickelodeon's hit cartoon about an adventurous young Latina and her trusty monkey Boots, grows up slightly for the film adaptation. Dora and the Lost City of Gold has our cheerful heroine as a teenager. No worries folks, she still has her backpack, trademark bangs, and ability to break the fourth wall. Every element that makes Dora a beloved character makes it to the big screen. The plot is geared towards younger children with a few absurd chuckles for adults. It's completely nonsensical, but the silly antics does put a smile on your face.
In the Amazon jungle, Dora (Isabela Moner) lives happily with her archaeologist parents (Michael Peña, Eva Longoria). She spends her days exploring. Singing happy songs with her CGI, anthropomorphized monkey sidekick (Danny Trejo) in tow. Dora's life changes drastically when her parents discover a clue to the location of a fabled Incan city. They decide the trip is too dangerous for a teenage girl. Dora is sent to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles to stay with her relatives.
Dora does not acclimate well to high school in the suburbs. Her friendliness, indefatigable optimism, and backpack loaded with survival supplies, including a poop shovel, are mocked by the snobby students. Dora's a constant source of embarrassment to her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg). Just when an inkling of sadness starts to color her demeanor, Dora's parents vanish on their expedition. A whirlwind series of events whisks Dora, Diego, and two hapless classmates back to South America. It's a race against mercenaries to find her parents, with only a goofy professor (Eugenio Derbez) to help them.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold fully embraces the source material. Dora is a proud Latina girl. The dialogue incorporates Spanish phrases and terminology, especially when she interacts with her relatives. There's no white-washing here. Dora's asides to the audience and conversations with her pet monkey are treated as strange, but just something the character does. Her parents and Diego act utterly bewildered when she speaks directly to the audience. Their baffled reactions adds to the humor of breaking the fourth wall. This part of the cartoon was critical to its success. I give screenwriters Nicholas Stoller and Matthew Robinson credit for finding a way to incorporate the asides.
The plot focuses more on the characters than the story. Dora and company go from place to place with little logic in between. The film is incredibly foolish at times. There's a CGI fox wearing a bandit mask called Swiper (Benicio del Toro), who pops up occasionally to steal their stuff. The character makes no sense whatsoever, but is in the cartoon and integral for the Dora faithful. The film is about the spirit of adventure, and finding new friends in the process. The ridiculous bits come with the territory.
Dora is an empowering figure meant to inspire courage and understanding. The casting of Isabela Moner was an inspired choice. She makes Dora her own, capturing the character's upbeat and positive personality. Dora has a unique place in pop culture. I honestly can't name another Latina children's character nearly as popular. It was essential for the filmmakers to get her right. Isabela Moner will win the hearts of audiences.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold will resonate with children and fans that grew up watching the cartoon. The material is completely family friendly. There are no double entendres. Kids will howl with laughter. They're the target audience and will be thoroughly entertained. Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a production of Walden Media, Nickelodeon, andParamount Players, which also handles distribution.