There are a certain set of ingredients that make for perfect summer-watching for the family. And, whilst it may be something of a surprise to read, Dora and the Lost City of Gold has those ingredients in abundance. In fact, it may just be the best family fare out in cinemas at the moment.
What it does isn’t necessarily all that different and new. It utilises the familiar fish-out-of-water (in this case, fish-out-of-jungle?) narrative combined with the tropes of a teen coming-of-age movie to make something that is sweet, endearing and immensely refreshing. Just like it’s eponymous central character (played by Isabela Moner), it’s a little odd and full of eccentricities – which is what makes it so likeable.
A live action film version of the educational animated TV series that first launched on Nickelodeon in 2000 may not have seemed the most obvious things to adapt. You’re even more likely to think this if you’ve ever seen the show – knowing it’s most iconic features are fourth-wall breaks, cyclical adventures that require ‘help’ from the viewers and talking anthropomorphic characters.
The film rather neatly addresses these aspects within it’s opening minutes, to rather hilarious effect. From then on it’s a 100 minute adventure romp through two equally terrifying landscapes – the jungle and high school. Both have their own dangers and test Dora in different ways, allowing her to discover herself. And, even in these most unlikely of circumstances, there’s some truly important messages for all of us – about family, friendship, knowing when to ask for help and being the truest version of yourself. Even when it feels like people are laughing at you. Especially when it feels like people are laughing at you. Why hide your talents and knowledge when it can do so much good? Why fit in when you were born to stand out?
And Dora stands out in her new high school for a lot of reasons, much to the quiet frustration of her cousin Diego (a hilariously deadpan
Jeff Wahlberg). Whilst Dora’s parents (a wonderfully paired Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) are on a high stakes exploration trail, Diego is tasked with looking out for his slightly younger cousin – who is far from a typical sixteen year old. Moner plays her wonderfully well, all wide-eyed naivety with an endless supply of upbeat positivity. She succeeds – somehow! – in finding a way to make someone who spontaneously comes up with songs (there’s even one about pooing in the jungle) and whose dance moves are styled on animal movements which are busted out with joyous enthusiasm be supremely endearing.
What plays out is a delightful throwback to 80s family-adventure movies – camp, funny, slapstick and just the right amount of silly.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is out in UK cinemas August 16th.