If you would have asked me five years ago if a Dora the Explorer adaptation would have worked on any level, I'd have said absolutely not. If you would have asked me the day before seeing the film on the big screen, I'd have said the exact same thing. But now, after the credits have rolled, I can safely say that Dora and the Lost City of Gold isn't a treacherous experience at all. However, the film missteps more than it succeeds - with several instances of a shimmering light of a possible YA franchise appearing ...if only for a moment.
James Bobin helmed the project, and those unfamiliar with the filmmaker may recognize the name from the 2010s Muppets series or the dreadful Alice Through the Looking Glass. But luckily this time behind the camera seems to be a mild success as he has created a film that doesn't, in a manner of speaking, "suck" but feels as though it belongs on the Nickelodeon TV Network and not in a cinema. His direction feels like he was working with a miniscule budget, with many choices feeling like cheap cutaways or ways to avoid a big set piece which provides another example of how this film exemplifies the qualities of a made for tv feature. The film’s direction never tried to step outside of the box beyond a single animation segment of within the film, which comes off as an odd, semi-adult section of the PG rated feature, including one of the main characters in animated form running around in the nude.
Nicholas Stoller co-wrote the screenplay with writer Matthew Robinson (Monster Trucks), and Stoller reminds me in many ways of well known director/writer/producer Robert Rodriquez dabbling in both very mature content as well as very immature children's content. The issues the film holds are surprisingly related purely to the need to make it an adaptation of Dora the Explorer instead of making its own thing. Singing, humor from the show, and the overabundance of references to the recognizable Nickelodeon television show muddle a perfectly adequate young adult adventure film. This is 100 percent without a doubt a kids movie; a kids movie that isn't an absolute mess or headache to complete, and one that any parent of a Dora the Explorer fan should consider taking their child too. Part Tomb Raider, Part Indiana Jones, and primarily Dora the Explorer, there's a surprising amount of things to keep you at the very least interested during this 102 minute runtime.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The acting is incredibly split. While some is pure satire on how the show speaks to children, mainly with the lead, Dora, it's the side characters that really damage the overall acting quality for the entirety of the film. Michael Peña and Eva Longoria really surprised me in their roles as Dora's parents. Not only were they charming, but you could see exactly where Dora got her explorer desires from. The villains are incredibly easy to figure out, with some claiming they are a "bad guy" throughout the film, there's not a lot of surprise when the film attempts to twist and turn away from your expectations. The addition of Benecio Del Toro and Danny Trejo as Swiper and Boots - they're seriously underused, one more than the other but when they speak for their relative character it actually brought a smile to my face.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score functions well, playing with the well known aspects of Dora the Explorer the show as well as typical action adventure scores. The film doesn't try hard to be overly original, however when the generic notes hit properly they hit relatively hard. It’s just a shame that more imagination couldn’t have been placed into making Dora’s obnoxious singing throughout the film have even a bit of rhythm, but instead we are stuck with annoying jingles in the jungle.
Specials effects needed a little bit of boost...they are undeniably rough. Boots is a computer animated monkey that shows almost no realistic characteristics. Luckily after an hour of Boots being on screen, you become numb to his poor animation and learn to accept it for what it is… him along with Swiper the Fox. The set designs are relatively basic looking, mainly taking place in a simplistic jungle for the majority of the film’s runtime, only being slightly clever with it sets during the final act involving traps and "puzzles.”
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is surprisingly more effective than it has any right to be. It's unfortunate that the Dora the Explorer aspects were a big attribute to why the film didn't majorly succeed though. From the awkward singing, talking to the camera, and the talking animals/inanimate objects, the film feels all over the place at times. However when the film works, it shows glimpses of what a possible future could be for Dora the Explorer on the big screen, it's just the matter with whether or not Nickelodeon is willing to go a better route instead of playing it too safe again.