If you groan at the thought of sitting through the new film, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” with the little ones in your life who are jumping up and down with excitement, take a deep breath. It’s actually a pretty fun ride.
Based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon, “Dora the Explorer,” the movie ages Dora, played with spunk and smiles by Isabela Moner, into a teenager. She’s lived her life in the jungle with her archaeologist parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña) but they want her to get a taste of the world. So, they decide to send her to California to go to school with her cousin, Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), while they go off looking for the legendary city of Parapata.
What could have been a run-of-the-mill fish-out-of-water story, Moner brings to Dora an intelligence, innocence, and genuine sunny disposition that sees Dora through the travails of high school and culture shock simultaneously. When Dora starts introducing herself to anyone and everyone (I mean, who does that?), she’s labeled as weird, and soon, even Diego starts to avoid her.
On a class field trip, she is kidnapped along with a few of her classmates and is, literally, shipped to the jungle by mercenaries bent on obtaining the treasure of Parapata. Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), a friend of Dora’s missing parents, rescues the teens and Dora leads the motley crew on an adventure that feels part “Goonies” and part “Indiana Jones.”
Dora’s cheery disposition, no matter what the situation, really bothers Sammy (Madeleine Madden), the school’s prissy smarty-pants girl, but Randy (Nicholas Coombe), the class geek, digs Dora and her jungle know-how. Diego, who left the jungle when he was six, starts remembering what adventures he and Dora had as kids and pitches in when the city kids get freaked out.
Nicholas Coombe, Jeff Wahlberg, Isabela Moner, and Madeleine Madden
in "Dora and the Lost City of Gold" (Paramount Pictures)
Since “Dora the Explorer” TV show is quite interactive, one might wonder how it translates to screen. In one scene, Dora looks straight at the audience and says, “Can you say ‘delicioso’?” Then her parents look around the room trying to figure out who she’s talking to. Also, her talking map and backpack make appearances.
Kudos to the filmmakers, too, for not stripping the movie of the show’s Latino culture and language.
The gem of the film, though, is Dora’s integrity and maturity, showing the other kids what really matters in life. It’s not the treasure the mercenaries are after. The real treasure is the gift of friendship and quality time spend with them and loved ones. In our digital world where so many relationships depend on digital connections rather than face-to-face ones, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” has a lot to say about the value of true connection with others.