Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Movie Information

A strong opening devolves into a disappointing actioner — even by children's movie standards.
Genre: Adventure
Director: James Bobin
Starring: Isabela Moner, Eva Longoria, Michael Peña
Rated: PG

The first third of Dora and the Lost City of Gold strikes a perfect balance between advancing the story of everyone’s favorite pint-sized explorer with just the right amount of in-jokes, self-deprecation and fish-out-of-water high jinks. Had director James Bobin (The Muppets) maintained this often hilarious equilibrium, Dora would have likely been a surprise hit for this grumpy father of a 5-year-old budding cinephile. Regrettably, that’s not the way things ended up.

Dora spends a lot of time setting up and then subverting many of the childish and fanciful elements of the much beloved educational children’s show, “Dora the Explorer.” I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was to see the source material (of which I am more than familiar with) handled in such a clever and fun way. There were plenty of genuine belly laughs coming from both me and my daughter.

However, with the snap of a finger, Dora goes from a smart meta-story about the titular jungle girl (Isabela Moner, Instant Family) living in the city to a hackneyed, low rent Indiana Jones for kids. All that inventive setup is washed away, leaving nothing more than D-grade action and overacted buffoonery.

I shouldn’t have expected much to begin with, but the promise of the opening 40 minutes made the final hour that much more disappointing. On top of the lost story opportunities, several continuity issues can be found, and what passes for action sequences are jumbled, incomprehensible messes.

And don’t get me started on the total misuse of Swiper the fox (voiced by Benicio del Toro). By changing the masked robber from a mischievous scamp to a foot soldier in a group of paramilitary mercenaries, Swiper goes from lovable misfit to a brute with no hope for redemption. His charm is replaced with malice, and poorly executed at that.

Despite these many flaws, Moner is fantastic as Dora. Even through the doldrums of the film’s last hour, her wonderful comedic timing manages to shine on in an ideal embodiment of the source material’s spirit. As a parent, I can find no fault with my daughter looking up to the type of young hero Moner portrays — I just wish the film didn’t fall off the map in such an anticlimactic way.

(Parents: In case you’re wondering, my daughter gives the film an enthusiastic “two thumbs up.” Use that information as you see fit.)

About James Rosario
James is a writer, record collector, wrestling nerd, and tabletop gamer living with his family in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and contributes to The Daily Orca, Razorcake Magazine, and Mountain Xpress.

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