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Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Starring: Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña
Director: James Bobin
Genre: Adventure, Family
RUNTIME: 102 Mins
The Muppets famed writer-director duo Nicholas Stoller and James Bobin adapt the popular Nickelodeon animated TV show Dora The Explorer into a big-screen tongue-in-cheek live-action romp, which turns out to be more than just entertaining!
Dora pays homage to its indigenous roots. Teenage explorer Dora, played by Isabela Moner, spent most of her life in the Peruvian jungles with her zoologist mother Elena, played by Eva Longoria, and archaeologist father Cole, performed by Michael Peña. When her parents depart in search of an ancient Incan city of gold called Parapata, they send off Dora to the real city for a temporary stay with her childhood best friend forever, cousin Diego, played by Jeff Wahlberg, and his family.
The iconic Latinx trailblazer was originally created for children to embrace their Latino heritage in the US. Similarly, in this live-action retread, the now-16-year-old Dora is intimately acquainted with animals, plants, seasons and cultures. The intrepid girl composes spontaneous songs for any occasion. She even breaks the fourth wall to teach her audience Spanish word delicioso and yet she faces her scariest challenge ― American high school.
But that’s not the Mean Girls plot here. Being confident, Dora stays true to herself. At the same time, she sets out to make some friends and gets ready to mould through friendship ― that’s real exploring. Concerned about her parents’ safety, Dora embarks on an adventure through the Amazon rainforest in search of her parents and a lost Inca civilisation. Dora’s trek is aided by Diego, two classmates – Sammy, played by Madeleine Madden, and Randy, acted by Nicholas Coombe. Also on the trek are a talking backpack, her anthropomorphised monkey-mate Boots, voiced by Danny Trejo, and a fellow explorer Alejandro played by Eugenio Derbez.
British director Bobin, with the help of his Oscar-winning production designer Dan Hennah of Lord of The Rings and Thor: Ragnarok, transports the LA-based high school story to Raiders of the Lost Ark lookalike South American jungle – all created in Queensland. The Instant Family star, Moner, ties more deeply to her Peruvian-American ancestry through her Dora. Her independence, inquisitiveness and wide-eyed innocence not only give Dora a human portrait but also make her beyond being a cartoon girl – “a cultural icon with global appeal”, as the director observes.
For her role, she learned Quechua, the most widely spoken indigenous language of the Incan empire. To create an authentic indigenous representation, Quechua and other indigenous cultural nitty-gritties were enhanced by the film’s Andean cultural consultant Mendoza-Mori, professor of Quechua and Spanish at the University of Pennsylvania. Longoria and Peña manage to amuse older audiences in their small appearances. Among the teenage actors, Wahlberg’s deadpan humor and Madden’s know-it-all outlook stands out the most, where Coombe’s quintessential nerd is quite awkward. Humor is typically slapstick in the film but Derbez’s vaudevillian nuances are delightful. Benicio Del Toro is just the best to be the weird antagonist in the jungle as the voice of Swiper – a fox wearing a bandit’s mask.
Despite its obvious flaws, the self-aware film matures when Dora discovers the gold city Parapata and asks permission from the Inca Princess Kawillaka, performed by Native actress Q’orianka Kilcher, to allow them a glimpse of their greatest treasure. The Princess asks Dora why she has come here and Dora tells her she’s here to learn – not to steal any treasure or conquer the land. Maybe we can learn something from Dora how to live in harmony with our surroundings and protect the environment.
Subidita’s verdict: 3/5