“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is an unabashedly lively entertainment product which provides a fair share of silly fun for its target audiences. While it is as broad and goofy as you can expect from a live action movie based a popular Nickelodeon TV animation series, the movie is quite more entertaining than you think, and you will probably appreciate the sweet and cheerful heart behind its seemingly silly façade.
The heroine of the movie is Dora Márquez (Isabela Moner), a young adolescent girl who has lived with her two explorer parents Elena (Eva Longoria) and Cole (Michael Peña) in some remote jungle area of South America for years since she was very young. After learning a lot thanks to her parents’ teaching, Dora grows up to be a smart and brave girl willing to join and assist her parents’ ongoing search for an ancient Incan city hidden somewhere in South America, but her parents decide that Dora should experience the outside world, and they subsequently send her to LA.
Although she is disappointed a lot to be separated from her parents, Dora keeps maintaining her chirpy spirit nonetheless, and she certainly distinguishes herself a lot right from when she arrives at the LA airport and then meets her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and his parents. During her first day in a local high school she is going to attend along with Diego, she cannot help but excited and enthralled as everything understandably looks amazing and interesting to her, and Diego, who has changed a lot since their good old childhood time in the jungle, is understandably embarrassed to be around her.
Meanwhile, Dora happens to encounter two kids who cannot possibly different from each other: Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and Sammy (Madeleine Madden). While Randy is a clumsy nerdy boy who often reminds me of my bumpy high school days, Sammy is your typical overachiever, and she is not so pleased to be in the same classroom with Dora, who innocently threatens Sammy’s status as the smartest student in the classroom.
Although she frequently gets ridiculed for her irrepressible personality, Dora keeps going on while simply being herself as usual, and then something unexpected occurs when she and Diego and other classmates go to a local museum for their field trip. Not long after she and Diego happen to join Randy and Sammy to form a team for a searching game, they are approached by three suspicious persons, and, what do you know, they all soon get kidnapped and then find themselves being taken to somewhere in South America.
Fortunately, Dora and other three kids are subsequently rescued by a guy named Alejandro Gutierrez (Eugenio Derbez), who tells them what is going on once they manage to evade their kidnappers. It seems Dora’s parents finally find what they have searched for many years, but they have been recently disappeared, and the persons who kidnapped Dora and her three schoolmates have been looking for any possible clue which may lead to Dora’s parents and that ancient Incan City, which, according to its legend, is full of gold and treasures and has certainly been coveted by many treasure hunters out there.
Once she discerns that she must do something for finding her parents, Dora goes deep into a jungle area where her parents has gone missing, and Diego and other two kids reluctantly join her along with Alejandro because, well, they have no choice as being lost in the middle of South America. As Dora and others go deeper into jungle, they naturally face small and big problems here and there in the jungle, and I must confess that I was particularly amused by a scene where Dora cheerfully provides a spot where one of her schoolmates can take care of a certain urgent biological urge.
When our main characters eventually arrive at their expected destination, the movie serves us a series of fun moments of peril and adventure besides several humorous moments. For example, there is a silly but uproarious moment which utilizes fart sounds in a rather creative way, and there is also an unexpectedly hysterical scene where the movie suddenly dives into the realm of animation along with its several main characters. While many of action sequences in the film are clearly influenced by “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and many other similar flicks, they are presented well with enough sense of awe and excitement in addition to some tongue-in-cheek attitude, and that is why we are not so distracted much even during several scenes featuring talking CGI animal figures.
Moreover, the main cast members of the film do not hesitate at all whenever they are demanded to go all the way for silliness, and their characters are sort of endearing in one way or another. While Isabela Moner is suitably plucky and likable in her titular role, Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, and Madeleine Madden are also solid in their respective roles, and Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, and Michael Peña, Danny Trejo, and Benicio del Toro, who, like Trejo, is incidentally one of the last actors I can imagine sounding ridiculous, have some fun with their broad supporting parts.
On the whole, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is a well-made product packed with personality and energy, and director James Bobin did a competent job on the whole. Sure, it is a bit too ludicrous from time to time, believe me, you will come to root for its spirited heroine as amused and excited a lot, and you may also come to wish for her next adventure.