As an adult in his mid-30’s, with no kids to speak of either, Dora the Explorer is not a show I have ever experienced. So for any Dora enthusiasts out there, I will apologise in advance that my review of this film will in no way be an indication as to whether or not it has done the show justice. On its own merits however, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a perfectly agreeable, at-times genuinely amusing kid-friendly actioner that will please its target audience whilst simultaneously proving serviceable enough for the older crowd likely to be attending in tow.
Now, whilst I haven’t experienced the show per se, I’m aware of many of its quirks and audience participation-type temperament, so the humour derived from director James Bobin (The Muppets) and writers Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Matthew Robinson (Monster Trucks) highlighting the program’s material wasn’t lost on me and set the tone for what followed; whilst the production team have an adult-skewered background they keep most of the comedic material appropriately PG, although some left-field moments such as when the characters trip on pollen and briefly imagine themselves as cartoon characters showcase their risque brand without compromising the film’s integrity.
Similar to how The Brady Bunch film features kept those characters’ sunny disposition and limited knowledge of the real world against the backdrop of a far more cynical reality, Dora (Isabela Moner, an absolute delight) is thrust to an existence she’s unfamiliar with when her treasure-hunting parents (Michael Pena and Eva Longoria, both neatly likeable) opt to go on their latest expedition without her. As we witness, Dora has only ever known life in the jungle, so having to navigate the concrete jungle that is public high school is a whole new adventure in itself.
The film doesn’t waste too much time in setting its action-heavy endeavour up, with Dora, her constantly embarrassed cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg, nephew to Mark Wahlberg for those playing at home), and a duo of unlikely companions – the geeky Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and uptight overachiever Sammy (Madeleine Madden) – begrudgingly paired together on a school field trip that turns unexpectedly global when they are kidnapped by mercenaries and shipped to Peru. It’s a bit of a stretch plot-wise, but the exaggerated nature of the film’s energy means it somehow feels organic, and it’s difficult to dislike Dora’s constant chipper attitude that you ultimately go along with it.
Once the group escape the evil clutches of their kidnappers (fronted by Temuera Morrison), the film adopts an Indiana Jones/Lara Croft-lite vibe – albeit with more singing (there’s a great little ditty about digging poo holes in the jungle) – which brings about multiple set-pieces revolving around ancient artefacts and intricate puzzles, sequences that seem aimed at an older audience who should no doubt be receptive to the film’s constant desire to please the various age ranges it hopes to target.
Whilst not necessary viewing in any form, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is bouncy and entertaining enough to warrant a cinema excursion for the young crowd that are surely to lap up the film’s tween-friendly mentality. Though CGI creations like Dora’s monkey sidekick Boots (voiced in a rather hilarious moment by Danny Trejo) and the villainous fox Swiper (Benicio Del Toro), and a cheesy end-credit musical number that wouldn’t have felt out of place in High School Musical similarly play right into the younger mindset of its target audience, this constantly energetic outing still manages to display a personality that parents can relate to, resulting in a feature that’s far more accessible to the masses than it has any right to be.