Review: DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD Would Be Better Off Unfound

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Isabela Moner stars as "Dora" in Paramount Pictures' "Dora and the Lost City of Gold." Photo Credit: Vince Valitutti.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold, inspired by the 2000’s children’s animated show Dora the Explorer, is basically a fun-size version of Indiana Jones or other similar adventure films. With just enough whimsy to please the little ones, but too predictable of a story to attract their older companions, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is pretty much what you would expect, and that isn’t very good.

The movie follows the eponymous child (now teenaged) explorer as she gets kidnapped by treasure hunters and must trace her parents’ path to find the Inca city of gold with an authentic-sounding name. It’s a generic and predictable adventure movie plot, and the tediousness is only compounded by the fact that the film thinks it is much more intelligent and “meta” than it actually is.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the movie is that it seems to be unable to decide what it wants to be. Of course, as you would expect of any film adapted from a children’s television show, there is a didactic message about the value of knowledge and the meaning of greed. However, the movie also loses sight of what made the Dora the Explorer television show so special — exposing young children to new cultures.

While it will be wonderful for Latino children, particularly young Latina girls, to see a powerful female heroine like Dora on screen, the film offers precious little else in terms of value. Whereas the television series taught young children a basic Spanish vocabulary and introduced them to aspects of Hispanic and Latino cultures, everything about this movie feels hokey, as if it is used for little more than a joke. Maybe the reason why the film’s treatment of the Inca culture feels so out-of-touch is that the script was written by two white guys?

Furthermore, there is just a lot of ridiculousness in the movie, particularly in the dialogue. The dialogue is cringe-inducing at worst and mostly illogical at best. Both writers have a mixed track record, with some great comedies under their belts, but also plenty of duds. Dora and the Lost City of Gold falls firmly into the latter category.

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Isabela Moner and Eugenio Derbez star in Paramount Pictures’ “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.” Photo Credit: Vince Valitutti.

Youngsters may not be too worried with the lack of logic in some of the dialogue, but parents will likely catch on to how stupid what they are watching really is. For example, in one scene, the protagonist recognizes a car as to belonging to someone… despite the fact that it looks like every car we have seen in the rest of the film. In another scene, she identifies her family’s symbol, which is nothing more than a red circle, for some reason.

The characters really couldn’t be more archetypal, but the movie can be cut some slack for this because it is aimed at younger audiences. The character of Dora, though, has the potential to be a great role model for young women, even if that is really the only reason to see the film. Her bright-eyed optimism and dedication to morality are something that the world needs more of these days.

Isabella Moner does a good job as the eponymous character. She is very charming and is able to bring the character to life in a way that feels like it is her own and yet still pays homage to the cartoon version quite well. The supporting cast in the movie feels underused. Eva Longoria, Benicio Del Toro, and Danny Trejo aren’t given enough lines to make a difference. Michael Peña has more lines, but is over-the-top and annoying. Eugenio Derbez is just doing his usual schtick, which is getting very old at this point.

Visually, the film is very lackluster. A significant part of the reason why the movie feels like it doesn’t really pay the respect that is due to the Inca culture is that everything about the set design looks so fake. The film was shot in Australia, not Latin America, which is not a great look, especially when compounded with the silly-looking sets. The soundtrack also adds an element of illegitimacy to the movie, as it makes it seem like the film wants to feel young and connect with the cool kids.

In pretty much every sense of the word, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is rough. The only saving grace of the movie is Isabella Moner, who plays the heroine in a way that makes her a strong role model. Otherwise, the film is silly and ridiculous. Can you say “ridiculoso”?

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is now playing in theaters.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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