James Bobin (director)
1h 42mins (length)
15 August 2019 (released)
18 August 2019
After the success of many other live-action adaptations of animations, it's no surprise that children's TV show Dora the Explorer has been given the same treatment.
Dora (Isabela Moner) grew up in the Amazon jungle with her parents Cole (Michael Pena) and Elena (Eva Longoria), explorers who have spent years searching for Parapata, the lost city of gold. When they go deep into the jungle to find the city, they send Dora to Los Angeles where she experiences the ups and downs of high school for the first time.
Dora becomes concerned about her parents when their phone calls stop, and during a school trip one day, Dora, her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), the school loser Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and overachiever Sammy (Madeleine Madden) are kidnapped by mercenaries who want Dora to find the location of Parapata. Luckily, they are rescued by Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), a friend of her parents, and the fivesome embark on a mission to find them.
The best aspect of this movie is Moner. Dora is constantly positive and cheerful and Moner captures that energy and optimism, but also shows the character as a real person with weaknesses and doubts. She's very capable in the jungle, more so than some of the adults, so will likely be a role model for children. Moner is funny, captivating and very warm. She makes the film far better than it should be.
On the other hand, we have Derbez as the one who acts silly and makes stupid decisions and noises. This may amuse children, but adults may not warm to him so much. Madden was the stubborn queen bee and she overacted on occasion, Coombe was a wimp and lots of fun and Wahlberg gave the most grounded, natural performance. Longoria and Pena aren't in it much, but it was amusing to see the latter being silly.
Director James Bobin - known for The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted - is very loyal to the TV show throughout, thanks to the inclusion of Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo), Dora's best monkey friend, Swiper the Fox (Benicio del Toro), an animated dream sequence, and Dora's little songs - the poo song is hilarious - but he also breaks free from those confines, which is a relief, because there were a few too many nods in the beginning, such as Dora breaking the fourth wall and asking the audience, "Can you say 'delicioso'?"
Rest assured this movie can be enjoyed by newcomers just as much as Dora the Explorer fans, although they may appreciate some of the references more.
As to be expected, the film borrows heavily from Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider and the like, but it feels different with a young girl in the lead, particularly a Latina. The cast is primarily Latinx and it's great to see this kind of representation in a children's film as well as the regular use of Spanish, which isn't always subtitled but entirely easy to understand.
Dora is super cheesy, it resorts to toilet humour for laughs and the digital work on the animated animals looks cheap, but it's more fun than expected. It has been made very well and is the perfect new adventure film for children. Don't be surprised if we see Moner as Dora again.