Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle, nothing could prepare Dora (Isabela Moner) for her most dangerous adventure yet — high school. Accompanied by a ragtag group of teens and Boots the Monkey (voice of Danny Trejo), Dora embarks on a quest to save her parents while trying to solve the seemingly impossible mystery behind a lost Incan civilization.
Well, this is most certainly going to come as a complete and utter surprise isn’t it? Here goes: Dora and the Lost City of Gold is actually exceptionally great in a plethora of ways. Who would have thought that a live-action film adaptation of the beloved Nickelodeon animated Dora the Explorer television series could be so good? I certainly was on the fence. The trailers accompanying the film did not hit the mark for me. It seemed like it was going to be a bland and forgettable children’s film, but boy was I wrong.
One of the main reasons why James Bobin’s latest feature works so well is because of Isabela Moner, who portrays the titular character. Ever since her work in 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight, I have become a fan of her, as she is genuinely a terrific actress, and she has not delivered a weak performance yet. In fact, her role as Dora is her best to date.
She perfectly encapsulates the feel-good and optimistic spirit that the character has been known for ever since the animated series here. While watching the film, it is tough to not feel the charm that exudes from Moner and her performance. She delivers some really great laughs when it is needed as well, with a couple in particular being truly hilarious. Whether she is singing one of her classic songs, swinging around the jungle, or simply engaging in conversation, Dora is such a likeable and interesting character here.
In cinema, there has been quite a few heroines that young children have looked up to as role models – Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman – and now, Isabela Moner as Dora. She is going to be a new fan favorite for a very long time, and I am genuinely excited for younger audiences in particular to see this movie.
This is also an extremely fun picture to watch with not a dull scene to be found. Every single second has something to laugh at or have fun with. Bobin and the rest of the filmmakers made sure to utilize all one hundred and two minutes to their advantage, and they did an excellent job at it.
Something that I can say deeply took me off guard was the amount of heart and emotion Dora had within it. As aforementioned, the trailers made the film look like a fun and forgettable family film that would only be enjoyable for the youngest of children, but that is most certainly not the case. The film does not shy away from having some actually emotional moments, particularly with Dora and Jeff Wahlberg’s Diego, who is her cousin in the movie.
When it comes to flaws, even though practically every moment is a ton of fun to watch, for the most part, the stakes present are relatively low. A large portion of the big action scenes feel unfortunately weightless, and it can feel very blatant that the characters involved will come out of the particular situation unscathed. However, two scenes in the film, one in the second act and one in the third, did have some real stakes involved which was a nice thing to see.
While the humor for the most part is quite hilarious with Moner delivering the best bits of comedy gold, there are a couple of times in which the jokes just did not land. Unfortunately, there are two poop jokes in the film which are brought up and it would have been nice to see better humor in these scenes.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is an incredibly fun adventure with a ton of heart and humor, and a truly moving and charming performance from Isabela Moner.
Overall Grade: B
MPAA Rating: PG for action and some impolite humor
Cast: Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo
Directed by: James Bobin
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Running Time: 102 minutes