Dora and the Lost City of Gold Aug 14, 2019 16:40:43 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Aug 14, 2019 16:40:43 GMT -5
Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)
Directed by: James Bobin
Directed by: James Bobin
Dora (Isabela Moner) and her friends, Randy (Nicholas Coombe, left), and Diego (Jeff Wahlberg).
With the odds ostensibly stacked against it, it's hard not to put a little extra icing on the praise cake for Dora and the Lost City of Gold. While not as gutsy nor irreverent in its subversion of its source material as Scooby-Doo, it does a wonderful job at ribbing corny elements of the show while gently nudging it towards more mature tendencies. Its serialized action echoes Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that's...pretty good, all things considered.
The film opens, appropriately with a young Dora, her cousin Diego, and her parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) living deep in the jungles of South America. Dora enjoys the liberating qualities of the treacherous but beautiful region, and she's been entranced by the idea of discovering the lost Incan city of Parapata. We jump ahead a handful of years, Diego is long gone to the States, and Dora (played by Isabela Moner) feels that she is close to finding Parapata somewhere in Peru. Her parents agree, and decide to search for it without her, instead opting to send Dora to Los Angeles to reconnect with Diego and integrate herself with teenagers her own age — something Dora has never done, relying on the companionship of Boots, her Backpack, and her trusty Map.
Dora tries to be herself in school because that's the only thing she knows how to do, much to the dismay of Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), who has enough social self-awareness to know that Dora is making a total fool of herself by being overly friendly and naive. She stays in touch with her parents via a radio, but one day their radio goes silent, and to make matters scarier, Dora, Diego, Sammy (Madeleine Madden), and Randy (Nicholas Coombe), two high school acquaintances, are all kidnapped by mercenaries intent on tracking down her parents. Their only guide through this, besides Dora's expertise with handling any and every situation the jungle throws at her, is Alejandro Gutierrez (Eugenio Derbez), an old friend of Dora's parents who aids the four in finding them and getting home safely.
The film was directed by James Bobin and co-written by Nicholas Stoller, two men who helped bring the Muppets back to the big screen twice earlier this decade. Bobin and Stoller prove that wasn't a good-intentioned fluke; the two have serious skill in taking a long-dormant property and revitalizing it with new energy and humor. From the start, it's established that Bobin, Stoller, and co-writer Matthew Robinson (writer of the perennial masterwork Monster Trucks) plan to subvert the material by acknowledging the show's quirkier aspects: Dora talking to the audience and encouraging them to repeat certain Spanish or jungle terms, regardless of how silly. It doesn't quite approach the level of parody, but it's treated playfully, with respect to the tropes of the original show.
Stoller and Robinson do a great job in the first act, plucking Dora from the "safety" of the jungle into the dangerous waters of high school, where the film feels like a fish-out-of-water rendition of Mean Girls. It works quite well for the comic effect alone, and it made me a little upset to see the story revert back to the bowels of the jungle, but such is to be expected from a Dora movie, after all. Once the film returns to the jungle, it becomes very similar to fairly recent live-action adventure flicks such as Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, with exaggerated pitfalls, strange creatures, and hokey villains, all executed in the name of good fun.
If not solely for the strong writing, Dora and the Lost City of Gold succeeds mostly because every performer is on the same page. Isabela Moner, who was terrific in last year's Instant Family, shines brightly as a fearless and more mature Dora, capturing her innocence as effectively as her fearlessness. She's a great poster-child for resilience in young boys and girls. The other members of the core four, from Wahlberg to Coombe, and their interpersonal banter help make the film fly in its pacing, and both Longoria and Peña play along to the tone set by Bobin, Stoller, and Robinson to great effect.
Finally, the action sequences play like serials, and they feature different parts of the jungle, from quick-sand to aqueducts, as if to give them all a moment in the limelight. It dawned on me while watching Dora, Diego, and the rest of the gang wander from one precarious situation to the next that this film is miles better than Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle for a couple major reasons. Where that flick sometimes looked artificial and every scene appeared like a competition for the actors to say the funniest one-liner, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is confident in itself that every actor will get their turn to speak. The sets and characters are integrated well into the camaraderie, although Boots and Swiper look a little off. They appear to have gone to the same plastic surgeon as Sonic the Hedgehog did before he reconsidered.
Starring: Isabela Moner, Jeff Wahlberg, Eugenio Derbez, Madeleine Madden, Nicholas Coombe, Eva Longoria, Michael Peña, Danny Trejo, and Benicio del Toro. Directed by: James Bobin.