Taking a cue from Disney’s playbook, Nickelodeon Kids has produced its first live-action adaptation of an animated series.  But unlike the house of mouse, this adaptation isn’t just a rehash of its source material.  “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” adds a decade to the title character’s age and utilizes the wit of comedic director James Bobin to craft a fun family film that is both nostalgic and fresh.

After a brief (and quite funny) rehash of the opening theme song, we’re introduced to Dora (Isabela Moner) and her parents, Cole (Michael Peña) and Elena(Eva Longoria).  This family of explorers has spent the last 10+ years living in Peru, searching for the Lost City of Gold.  After discovering a key artifact, Dora’s quest is abruptly derailed as her parents ship her off to High School in California as they go on without her.  It seems a cruel detour to drop on a child who has been looking forward to the discovery for the majority of her life, but since the plot demands it, the ever-unflappable explorer heads off to her most dangerous destination yet!

There’s a worrying moment in this first act when it seems the entire plot will fall back on the tired “weird smart kid in a new school trope” but the writing is witty enough and Isabela ‘s performance is so delightfully optimistic that it wouldn’t matter if that was the entire story.  Instead, her time amongst civilization only helps to define her character, and reunite her with Diego(Jeff Wahlberg).  Soon, they along with two accidental side-kicks, are whisked back to South America and set off in search of not only the Lost City, but her parents who have mysteriously disappeared.  Joining them on this quest is an old family friend, Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez).  Eugenio really ignites the humor for the remaining two-thirds of the film.  His manic energy and physical humor pairs well with Isabela’s glowing charm as the movie begins to submerge itself in the surreal.

Once back in Peru, the movie has no qualms in referencing and playing with every single trope of the Jungle Adventure Genre.  One character is even self-aware of this fact, referencing what he’s learned from various movies.  To youths in the audience, this will all be quite fresh, but adults will enjoy the winks at their favorite films.  Even the classic quicksand trap makes an appearance, but it cleverly subverts the expected and ends up being one of the best versions of that trope to exist.  (Don’t miss our interview with Eugenio Derbez for more on that scene and his experiences working on this movie.)

“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is a good, clean, light-hearted adventure film for the family with a very positive message that has a little something for everyone.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold