Entertainment

Movie review: ‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’: Quirky aged-up adventure is packed with positive messages

Parents need to know that "Dora and the Lost City of Gold" is a live-action adventure based on the beloved animated series "Dora the Explorer." Since this Dora (Isabela Moner) is a teen rather than a very young girl, the movie is geared toward slightly older viewers than the show. The story is a mix of fish-out-of-water high school comedy and true-to-Dora adventure and rescue mission. Expect some peril, including a kidnapping, an armed hostage situation, and several close calls with danger, injury, and drowning. Kids are chased and gassed, but there's also lots of humor and slapstick, and everyone's favorite explorer ends up completing her mission safely. Characters use a bit of insult language ("shut up," "stupid," "weirdo," etc.), and there's some flirting and a quick kiss between teens. Expect themes of teamwork, communication, compassion, courage, curiosity, and perseverance.

WHAT'S THE STORY?

"Dora and the Lost City of Gold" starts off showing a young Dora (Madelyn Miranda) enjoying life with her parents (Eva Longoria, Michael Pena) and her cousin Diego (Malachi Barton) in the jungle – until Diego and his parents move "to the City." Young Dora looks directly at the camera, asking viewers to repeat words in Spanish, and believes that her monkey Boots talks to her – just like on the show. But in the movie, her parents consider it a quirk of her being homeschooled. A decade later, a now teen Dora (Isabela Moner) makes a breakthrough discovery that leads her parents on a mission to Peru to unearth a legendary Incan city. While they're gone, they send her to live with Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and his family in Los Angeles. For the first time in her life, Dora has to attend public school with kids who are decidedly uninterested in her earnest curiosity and friendliness. During a field trip to a museum, Dora and her friends are kidnapped and taken to Peru – but they escape with the help of Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), a friend of her parents. Together they try to find her parents and the city of gold.

IS IT ANY GOOD?

This surprisingly funny, earnest adaptation of the beloved bilingual kids' show features an unwaveringly positive teen version of Dora. Although it's unclear precisely to which audience this movie will appeal – fellow teens nostalgic for the Nickelodeon series they grew up watching or younger fans curious to see an aged-up protagonist? One thing is immediately obvious: It's incredibly well cast. Peruvian American Moner doesn't just look like Dora with her large, expressive brown eyes and signature bangs; she nails the precocious, generous, and inquisitive young explorer's personality. And Longoria and Pena are caring and comedic as Dora's parents, who, like all parents with older teens, have ambivalent feelings about their little girl growing up.

The supporting roles include some big-name Latinx actors, including slapstick master Derbez, who's also a producer; Mexican superstar Adriana Barraza as Dora's abuelita; Benicio Del Toro as the voice of Swiper the thieving fox, and, in a single hilarious cameo, Danny Trejo as none other than the otherwise squeaky-voiced Boots. Wahlberg (Mark's nephew), whose mother is Dominican, is promising as cousin Diego. But some of the movie's jokes are overly predictable, there's an unnecessary (but super low-key) romantic subplot, and the relationship between Dora, Diego, and their two classmates isn't as compelling as, say, the one between the teens in "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle." Still, the Australian forest doubles nicely for the Amazonian rainforest, and the action sequences are just perilous enough to be tween friendly without being too scary. It's always clear that Dora and her pals will be able to proverbially yell "We did it! Hooray!" at the end. Watch through the credits for a cute bonus number featuring Moner, who gets to show off her musical theater skills.

RATING AND CONTENT

Recommended for ages 8 and older

Quality: 3 out of 5

Educational value: 3 out of 5

Positive messages: 4 out of 5

Positive role models: 4 out of 5

Violence and scariness: 3 out of 5

Sexy stuff: 1 out of 5

Language: 1 out of 5

Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 1 out of 5

Consumerism: 1 out of 5

MOVIE DETAILS

In theaters: August 9, 2019

Director: James Bobin

Studios: Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon

Genre: Family and Kids

Run time: 102 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.

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