Nickelodeon has been in a tricky scenario over the last five years, in where the audience that once watched their hit shows is now becoming adults. Now they’ve scrambled for ways to appeal to a new generation, even aging their banner characters a bit. With “Dora the Explorer,” Nickelodeon has taken great pains in allowing her to blossom with her audience, and then revert back to the original formula that made her such a hit. With this feature film adaptation, they manage to pull off what is a loving tribute, a fun action adventure film, an adaptation that is never afraid to poke fun at itself every now and then, and a spotlight for latinx movie heroes we can root for.
Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle with her parents and cousin Diego, nothing could prepare Dora (Isabela Moner) for her most dangerous adventure ever — High School. Always the willing explorer, Dora has a tough time fitting in, but quickly finds herself on an impromptu adventure in the jungles. Re-uniting with best friend Boots, cousin Diego (Jeffrey Wahlberg), a mysterious jungle inhabitant (Eugenio Derbez), and a pair of classmates accidentally thrust in to the journey, Dora has to save her parents (Eva Longoria, Michael Peña) and solve the impossible mystery behind a lost city of gold.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” had something of a confusing marketing campaign where it touted itself as a big screen version of Dora the Explorer, and sometimes a spoof. While it does poke fun at its various quirks including Dora’s penchant for encouraging literally everyone, and breaking the fourth wall, James Bobin also manages to grasp the appeal of Dora very well. Isabela Moner is more than qualified to bring Dora to the big screen, depicting her as a heroine that’s strong, independent, courageous, and often times very clever. Although she’s a bit unorthodox once she’s out of her element and in the public, her interactions with people outside of the jungle manage to make her even more empathetic and engaging.
The writers have every chance to mock Dora and the audience she raised, but the film actually has a good time turning Dora’s trademarks in to great plot devices. They ultimately help flesh her character out for a broader audience (character Sammy’s rant about Swiper the Fox had me in hysterics, though). There’s also a different more interesting take on Boots, and Swiper, as well as Backpack and Map, the latter of which ends up being more symbols of Dora’s character, than actual supporting players. The primary focus is on how much of an influential and strong female Latinx heroine Dora has always been. The writers pay homage to her with so many instances where she’s much less Dora the toddler cartoon and a bold adventurer who could likely go toe to toe with Indiana Jones.
Star Moner is very good as the often conflicted Dora who is completely out of her element through most of the movie, and gradually grows to realize that change and growth can be a good thing. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is a fun, funny, great re-invention of the smash kids’ series. James Bobin’s iteration teams a top notch latinx cast, and garners a contagious sense of optimism and adventure, promising to win new fans while also paying tribute to those that grew up watching Dora explore.