Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Jacob Richardson | 1/09/2019
Can you say disappointing?
Dora (Isabela Moner) is an avid adventurer and explorer, living in the jungle with her Professor parents Elena (Eva Longoria) and Cole (Michael Pena). When they catch a lead on their decades long hunt for the lost city of gold, they head off into the jungle, and send Dora off to the heady lights of LA to take up high school with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg). It isn’t long until evil mercenaries kidnap Dora, Diego, and their two friends Sammy (Madeleine Madden) and Randy (Nicholas Coombe). The foursome, coupled with Dora’s trusty monkey Boots (Danny Trejo) must travel through the jungle to try and find Dora’s parents and the lost city of gold before the mercenaries and their wily fox sidekick Swiper (Benicio Del Toro).
The most frustrating thing about Dora and the Lost City of Gold is that you can consistently feel a more compelling, braver and funnier film bubbling under the surface. But in throwing every possible story thread he can think of at the screen in its 1 hr 42 min runtime, director James Bobin manages to obfuscate any deeper, more meaningful film in a mire of tired tropes and fart gags.
For example, when Dora hits the big smoke and jumps headfirst into her first day of high school, Bobin seems to have struck on a funny, fish out of water story. Indeed, Bobin frequently takes sly digs at the sheer ridiculousness of his story; whether it’s Pena’s Cole proclaiming Dora’s habit of asking whether an invisible audience can say what she has just said as a ‘phase’, or Dora’s backpack of survival tools being ransacked by a sigh-laden security guard. Even the casting choice of Danny Trejo as the voice of Boots (or a delightfully odd, transcendent toxin experience where everyone transforms into their animated selves) feels like a knowing wink at the audience. It is at these points when the movie not only feels at its most intelligent, but also is at its funniest.
It is a shame, then, that Bobin quickly drops the highschool antics (albeit not before a very funny appearance from Matt Okine) in favour of a Indiana-lite hero adventure through the jungle. This would be perfectly fine, if it wasn’t for his propensity to create micro-scenes; plot threads and events that have almost no buildup, and little to no wind down, and instead focus solely on an event suddenly popping into the lives of our heroes. It creates a disjointed viewing experience that never coalesces into a whole.
From an acting perspective, this disjointedness and unevenness continues. Pena and Longoria are absolutely phoning this in, and frequently seem to be in physical pain dealing with this material. As the duplicitous Alejandro, Eugenio Derbez has some of the worst material to deliver, and frequently delivers it equally as poorly. Temuera Morrison and Natasa Ristic are so one note it is almost laughable.
The one bright spark amongst all this is Dora herself. Isabela Moner is irrepressibly optimistic and upbeat, and makes the poorly written script sing with a buoyancy that no one else in the cast can manage. Ultimately, Dora and the Lost City of Gold functions better as a vessel for conveying her talent than anything else. One just hopes that in a decade or so, when we look back on her career, this doesn’t stand out as the pinnacle, because if there is one thing this iteration of Dora has ‘discovered’, it is the talent of its lead.
Ditch Dora’s map and get one that leads straight to the exit of your movie theatre; you’ll need it.