Young Dora (Isabela Moner) is the daughter of two explorers, who seek out ancient Inca treasure in the jungle for the purpose of research and learning. She has a healthy understanding of family, of the jungle, and of the collaboration that is required for humanity to exist alongside nature. What Dora lacks is an understanding of broader human culture: she is nearly a smarter version of Amelia Bedelia when she’s sent to a high school in the city. When her parents (Michael Pena and Eva Longoria) disappear while on a deep jungle expedition, Dora is kidnapped by treasurer hunters who want her to lead them to the treasure for monetary gain.
Along for the ride are Dora’s cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), two other classmates, and her trusty sidekick, Boots the Monkey. Thanks to the collaboration of the teenagers, as they figure out how to get along, and Boots, there are plenty of lighthearted moments that have some fun at the animated television show’s expense. As another one of those seeking the Inca treasure, Eugenio Derbez also provides several of the more hilarious moments in the film.
Audiences who grew up watching Dora or Diego, whether as children or as the parents of those children, will certainly take to the way that the characters have been cast, and how those actors portray them on screen. In a day and age when everything is getting a “remake” or a “retelling,” Dora and the Lost City of the Gold may very well launch a series of these films because it has enough tongue-in-cheek moments as nods to fans while also standing alone as a feature of its own. For this reviewer, a request to review this was met with a groan – but the end result was a fun family outing that entertained like a child-sized Indiana Jones movie without any of the moments that made me cringe for the children sitting next to me. In that way, Dora is a throwback to movies of the 1980s.
There are several lessons to be learned in the context of Dora’s adventure, a blend of the visual portrayal and the narrative. Most obviously, we see a young woman prove to be smart, resourceful, and brave, not waiting for a young man to save the day; there is also a clear representation of Hispanic family and culture that supersedes all of the challenges thrown Dora’s way. For the hilarity of the other characters, the film still falls on Moner’s shoulders to display the way that Dora innocently loves all and respects all, refusing to fall in line with the expectations of others, being true to herself. She exemplifies her family’s moral compass: to seek treasure for the sharing and the learning, not for the consumption, because white, black, or brown, English-speaking or not, we’re all in this together.
Special features include deleted and extended scenes, bloopers(!), and featurettes “All About Dora,” “Can You Say Pelicula?”, “Dora in Flower Vision,” and “Dora’s Jungle House.”