James Bobin’s comedic adventure works surprisingly well from the Nickelodeon cartoon Dora The Explorer which ran through the bulk of the 200s.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold stars Michael Pena, Eva Longoria and Isabela Moner (Instant Family) with the latter (now as a teenager) having the kind of charm and similar to live-action/animated Enchanted.
Those unfamiliar with the source (especially older companions/parents) might be amused with the upbeat tone and Moner’s appealing handling of the well regarded animated character. Dora’s been home-schooled by zoologist mom Elena (Longoria) and archaeologist dad Cole (Pena) in South America constricted in a way, not just by wearing a boa.
A chance for her professor parents to search for the titular Parapata in Peru puts their daughter in a little Los Angeles culture shock. She’ll have to stay for a while with her parents.
The early portions actually induce much jocularity whether at the airport or Silverlake High School as Diego tries to get through the day without much embarrassment. His cousin, you see has a tendency to break out in song expressing a sense of joy, wonderment, and willingness to learn. Dora isn’t just your typical high-schooler based on how she’s ready in case of an emergency.
The well intentioned girl gets to confront obstacles in a new environment before letting the proceedings head in a mind Indiana Jones direction when confronted by a shrill mercenaries. Temuera Morrison is the boss. It’s an exploration to get her parents with a hallucinogenic highlight set in the wildlife with a mystery of a lost Inca civilization hanging in the balance.
While the final reels may seem a tad derivative Bobin and co-writer Nicholas Stoller let the cast have fun with the meta stuff like what they did with The Muppets and the fish-out-of-water experience from another small-screen venture brought to the silver screen, The Brady Bunch Movie.
The CGI has a cheesy quality to it, but fits right into Dora’s bright chirpiness. And, having a predominantly Latino cast has its rewards (through Pena and Longoria are mostly sidelined).
Madeleine Madden and Nicholas Coombe make Dora’s disparate fellow journeyers/classmates Sammy and Randy decent company. While Adriana Barraza is fine as Abuelita, recent hero Danny Trejo and Benecio del Toro gleefully lend their voices to companion Boots the Monkey and Swiper the Fox, respectively. Eugenio Derbez (of the recent Overboard with Anna Faris) is the woolly, somewhat enigmatic Prof. Alejandro Gutierrez.
For those coming into Dora and the Lost City knowing very little, it doesn’t make for a wonderful Peruvian travelogue, but a golden choice in Moner as the sweet, intrepid schooling may not be all that bad.