Nickelodeon has taken a leaf out of Disney’s book, adapting one of its most loved children’s cartoons into a live-action film. Muppets director James Bobin and The Invention of Lying’s writer Matthew Robinson have worked their magic to turn Dora the Explorer into the feature-length Dora and the Lost City of Gold.
We meet Dora as a youngster, living in the jungle with her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Pena). Just like her cartoon character, she’s a chirpy walking encyclopaedia and her best friends are her monkey, Boots, and her cousin Diego, until that is, he moves to the city with his family.
Fast forward ten years and almost nothing has changed. Dora still sports the same bob and bangs as when she was six, she continues to explore and make friends with animals and is unwaveringly happy to do so.
Her parents, however, are doing some exploring of their own. They’re getting closer to finding Tarabata, the city of gold, but they make a judgment call that Dora’s not ready to go with them and she’s sent to live with Diego and explore high school instead.
Taking her mother’s advice to heart, Dora approaches her new surroundings by being herself. For Dora, this means turning up to school with a backpack full of jungle survival equipment and singing her way through any difficulties.
Unsurprisingly, she has trouble making friends. She’s blind to the passive aggressiveness of the school’s over-achiever Sammy (Madeleine Madden) and accidentally strikes a connection with the token nerd (Nicholas Coombe), which is much to the dismay of her cooler cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) who has to try to help her navigate this crazy new world without it costing him his reputation.
From the moment Dora’s sneaker hits the rocky jungle floor, the film is surprisingly sharp and funny. You’ll benefit hugely from having seen an episode (and it could be literally any episode) of the cartoon series as the tongue-in-cheek humour frequently draws on the way Dora interacts with the camera, the audience and her tendency to sing and personify her belongings.
Isabela Moner is impeccably cast as teenage Dora. In a role that is a far cry from the abandoned angst-ridden teen she played in Instant Family, Moner nails the wide-eyed jubilance and impossibly perky disposition of our Latina heroine. She radiates good-natured optimism and innocence without coming across as ditzy and you’ll absolutely be in her corner from start to finish.
Pena and Longoria (in her first acting role since giving birth only a few months earlier) are a hilarious parent coupling and Wahlberg gives what’s perhaps the most naturalistic performance as Dora’s well-adjusted cousin who is pained by her presence but loyal nonetheless. There are other performances that are either deliberately cartoonish or poorly over-acted, you be the judge.
Dora and the lost city of gold has a more twisty story than many might imagine, even if you’re able to pick a twist or two coming. And whether you can or you can’t guess how the events will unfold, there’s so much to enjoy along the way in this family movie, which is brimming with positivity, themes of friendship, acceptance and the idea of exploring, but not taking.
It’s perhaps best suited to younger teens but this cheeky, charming Nickolodeon film offers enough fresh humour and lovable characters to produce a good time for a much wider audience. Maybe a Rugrats reboot won’t be far behind.
SEE IT if…
You enjoy parodies
You’ve been waiting for a funny live-action remake
SKIP IT if…
You find positivity unbearable
You disliked Jumanji
It gets 4 stars out of 5.
Not your thing?