What can one expect from a live-action film adaptation of the Nickelodeon children’s cartoon series, Dora the Explorer?
It’s a tough question. Especially when the trailer for the Paramount Pictures film looked like a child friendly version of Indiana Jones.
The film follows Dora (Isabela Moner), a young girl born and raised in the Peruvian jungle, who is sent to Los Angeles to experience high school when her parents, Cole (Michael Peña) and Elena (Eva Longoria) head off on an expedition to locate the ancient Incan city of Parapata.
Dora, having never left the jungle before, struggles to find her place in high school, despite being accepting, non-judgemental and open to all her peers. Her cousin, Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), on the other hand, who has spent over a decade navigating the treacherous waters of everyday society, attempts to have Dora ‘fit in’. In essence, this fish out of water experience acts as an interesting metaphor for the cruelty that comes with modern day society, as opposed to the carefree nature of the jungle.
Of course, in a narratively predictable fashion, a group of treasure hunters hell bent on looting the gold in Parapata, kidnap Dora, Diego and two classmates and force them into helping them locate Dora’s parents, and therefore, the lost Incan city.
Being a film targeted towards children, the entire film is predictable, with childish humour that will appeal to children and fans of Dora the Explorer. Several cheesy film tropes are utilised to help lessen the serious tone of the film, much to the delight of viewers. However, adults expecting a more substantial narrative, should remember the genre of this particular film, as well as its target audience.
Though the narrative attempts to be similar to that of the explorations of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft, there is a great deal lacking in terms of history behind Parapata. Even as a child, I loved films that explored ancient history and myths, with a bit more detail into the civilisation, the curses or myths behind the civilisations destruction, and the like. Of course, this is a film based on Dora the Explorer, so I suppose we shouldn’t expect much depth in the historical aspects of the narrative. A shame really.
Character development was done really well throughout the film. It was really easy to connect with Dora and her friends as they attempted to find Dora’s parents and thwart the treasure hunters from looting Parapata. Each of the characters in the film have a unique personality, which made for some good laughs, emotional kinship and enjoyment.
Visually, the film did well to catch my attention. There were several aspects of the film that were eye-catching and captivating, with the use of animation to really engage audiences. The CGI of Boots the Monkey (voiced by Danny Trejo) was done really well. Not only was he cute and adorable, but he looked rather lifelike as well (as much as a cartoonised monkey could).
Overall, Dora and the Lost City of Gold was an entertaining watch, more so for the younger generation, who are more inclined to enjoy a film without much substance. Thankfully, there were some important life lessons included in the film that adults are able to appreciate, as well as some unique twists to keep audiences engaged. With some great visuals, humour, and decent pacing, this one would make a good watch for the kids.