This unlikely children’s film has to land as perhaps the most surprising film of the year for me – in an ocean of Academy Award front-runners and wild horrors, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a wild cinematic experience that hides in plain sight. This unsuspecting kids flick stands firmly alongside popular meta films like Deadpool (2016) and The Lego Movie (2014) – perhaps attempting to carve its mark as not your typical movie. Unsurprisingly Dora and the Lost City of Gold is adapted loosely from the children’s television show; it follows the story of a young girl named Dora (Isabela Moner) as she navigates high-school life and embarks on a journey to discover an ancient lost city.
Back in the year 2012 a popular YouTube channel by the name of College Humor posted a parody-like movie trailer of what appeared to be an R-Rated Dora the Explorer movie – it garnered widespread attention and went viral across the web. Of course, anyone with a brain knew it was a spoof video and would never become an actual film. Well, all I can is that by some weird sequence of cosmic events, that odd parody film has spiritually come to fruition. To put things plainly, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is splendid. This adaptation journeys deep in the recesses of self-referential humor – taking resolute jabs at its source material – even going so far as to outwardly ridicule it. If there’s one way to describe this Dora adaptation, its that it’s wholly and truly self-aware.
We’re met with some moments of absolute hilarity – notably when Dora interrupts the film to speak candidly to the camera – characters are often glaring at Dora in utter confusion, wondering to themselves if she perhaps has brain damage. The character of Dora is witty, charismatic, and positive to a fault – her most defining feature being that she makes light of dangerous situations. Dora’s almost insufferable positivity is utterly charming when performed by Isabela Merced – witnessing her either break into song or blurt out a fact while other characters are in complete peril is priceless. The decision to portray Dora as almost wholeheartedly and unabashedly confident in herself makes her character a joy to witness; this film could have quite easily made Dora sympathetic – but instead it shows her in all her goofy glory – completely unashamed and wearing a dopey beaming smile the whole time. The supporting cast is however nothing to write home about – they vary from fine to sometimes irritating – but overall work well enough within Dora’s story to form a bond between them all.
‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’ manages to maintain its comedy up until its third act, where it decides to dedicate its time toward wrapping up the story. In all honesty, the story itself is of little relevance if you’re in search of a film that satisfies your need to see Dora herself – however, if you’re also in search of a dumb-fun adventure film, then the third act can at least provide some entertainment. This is a film that you watch for Dora, for her quirky antics, and for all those fourth-wall breaking moments.
Visually this film has some strengths and some quite major weaknesses – primarily being that of its animal CGI and design. We are met with a visually fuzzy CGI model of Boots and Swiper – both of which take a hard turn too far toward cartoonish. While they may not have had the budget to justify lifelike CGI similar to that of Rocket Raccoon, the overall design could have benefited from a more lifelike design. We are provided with some admirable blending of its CGI environments and real-world locations – but it quickly loses steam once the third act of the film comes around and the environments become increasingly CGI intensive. The highlight of its visuals is when Dora, Diego and Alejandro have a sort of “drug trip” and the real world blends with cartoon. It’s brilliant.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a treasure worth keeping, one that should be displayed for the eyes of many movie-goers and would-be film adapters in the years to come. Providing genuine laugh-out-loud moments and led by Isabela Moner’s delightful performance – this film is meta, goofy, and everything one could desire out of a Dora film. It stands, unironically, as one of my favourite comedies of the decade – almost entirely because it is packaged in an unassuming container.