Can YOU say ‘extreme neurotoxicity’? – Dora

Madeleine Madden, Isabela Moner, Jeff Wahlberg and Nicholas Coombe channeling The Goonies on their quest to Parapata.

Everyone knows Dora The Explorer! Dora is a young Hispanic girl, exploring the wilderness and fantasy-like destinations with her monkey Boots, who wears… red boots. With her bottomless talking backpack and magical map, they sing and dance to get to their goals and break the fourth wall, teaching children another language, one word at a time. (In the USA, Dora helps children speak Spanish. But in Europe, she usually teaches children English, in a playful way.) This all sounds very much like a colourful educational way to keep your toddlers occupied for half an hour, but now there’s a full length live action-spectacle. And it’s not just for toddlers.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold starts off exactly as you would expect – an energetic musical opening number with a CGI-monkey and nephew Diego (Malachi Barton), cruising through the jungle yelling at Swiper the masked fox. To then show us this is all just playful banter. Six-year-old Dora (Madelyn Miranda) and her family of archeologists live in the jungle. One day, Diego and his parents decide to move to the city and Dora stays behind with her parents and best friend Boots.

10 years later, Dora (Isabela Moner) records her jungle quests with a GoPro strapped to her chest, interacting with dangerous animals, like a mini Dr. Dolittle. One of her quests leads to the final puzzle piece her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Pena) were looking for in the search of Parapata – The Lost City of Gold – an ancient civilisation somewhere in the middle of the South-American jungle. Excited as she is, Dora gets ready to join her parents on the adventure of a lifetime, but her parents have another idea. Dora will have to stay with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) in the big city, while mom and dad face the wilderness. This might be her biggest adventure yet, since she’s never had any teenage interactions and being home schooled by two professors, doesn’t prepare you for the threatening challenges of high school.

Embarrassed by his cousin’s constant positivity and lack of people skills, Diego forgot what it feels like to live a life without any worries or trying to fit in. Dora quickly meets two students she gets along with, the smartest kid in school Sammy (Madeleine Madden) and astrology-enthusiast Randy (Nicholas Coombe). When a school trip to the Natural History Museum goes wrong, our gang gets kidnapped by gangsters, who are also in search of Parapata, and need Dora to find it. This is where the adventure really begins..

Director James Bobin (Alice Through The Looking Glass) knows exactly how to shine a new light on this 19 year-old franchise, without losing its essence. He makes the film look playful, yet delivers a serious message about staying true to yourself. A handful of writers perfected the story, which seemed impossible to translate to the big screen. How do you change up a formula that has been around for almost two decades AND convince a new generation?! This is how you do it. By not taking yourself too serious and make fun of what seems too silly to translate from an animated kids-program to a live action family adventure. Dora talking to an imaginary audience doesn’t go unnoticed – seems like Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s Fleabag found herself a soulmate.

Does it bring anything new to the table – no. Does it matter – no. Fart-jokes and Dora creating an instant classic song about pooing in the wilderness, aside, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is hella fun. In a The Goonies-kind-of-way, they explore jungle puzzles through amazing set pieces and clever forgotten Inca-rituals, while John Debney and Germaine Franco‘s impressive score plays in the background. The CGI-creatures, such as Boots and Swiper (voiced by Benicio Del Toro) are well crafted and true to their original looks. This could’ve easily turned into another early Sonic The Hedgehog-fiasco, but the visual effects team actually made something unique without going over the top with its design.

Moner IS Dora. Period. Once I saw her in Instant Family last year, holding her own next to Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg, I knew she could do this. She never loses her charisma and keeps Dora’s innocence intact. I can’t wait to see this young lady become the star she deserves to be. The supporting cast is very diverse and definitely gets a chance to shine.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a trippy experience, full of magnificent set pieces and inventive scenes that keep you guessing until the very end. Tomb Raider move aside, Dora has arrived!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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