The opening to “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” will give anybody who parented in the early 2000s flashbacks, and any kid who grew up then the warm fuzzies.
We’re treated to that catchy theme song, a real-not-animated little girl (Madelyn Miranda) and her six year-old cousin (Malachi Barton) just bubbling with that relentless optimism, turning to the camera and teaching.
“Can you say…African Pygmy Elephant?”
Yes we can, Dora the Explorer!
It is, as it ever was — What’s the word I’m hunting for? ADORAble.
But that was Dora “then.” “Lost City of Gold” is set ten years later. She’s still got that singing backpack, and a map that sings “I’m the MAP,” and Boots her monkey pal. She’s still living in the jungle with her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña, reminding us he’s one funny hombre). But they’ve let Dora grow up. It’s just that the business with her turning to an invisible camera is still going on — at 16.
“Can you say…neurotoxicity?”
Dad’s “She’ll grow out of it” never happened.
Isabela Moner of “The Last Knight” transformers sequel and TV’s “100 Things to Do Before High School” is a cheek-pinching delight as this adolescent Dora, packaged in a candy-colored comic fantasy that’s like a half-animated version of “Tomb Raider.”
“Half animated” because Boots is still not a “real” monkey, and that darned thieving fox Swiper, Dora’s nemesis, just won’t stop swiping.
Boots virtually never talks, and Swiper virtually never stops trash-talking. You might recognize the voices that take on those roles.
For “Lost City of Gold,” Dora is packed off for a little culture clash, moving to Los Angeles where Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) has been living for years. Naive, still-childish/still-trusting Dora is about to be eaten alive at the high school they’ll now attend together.
Her parents think they’ve found a map to this lost Inca city in the Andes, and want track it down without their “supercool exploradora.”
Dora has just enough time to make a fool of herself on the dance floor, make a smarty-pants nuisance of herself in class (“Dorka,” they call her, the meanies!) and some friendemies at school (Madeleine Madden, Nicholas Coombe) when she, they and Diego are nabbed and sent to Peru by a bunch of toughs (Temuera Morrison plays the leader) who also want to find that lost city.
That’s where they run into a friend of the family, their jungle-phobic “guide” Alejandro, vamped up by Eugenio Derbez of “Overboard” and “How to Be a Latin Lover.”
The quartet-turned-quintet need to avoid the bad guys, including Swiper, and get to Dora’s parents before they do.
Anybody over the age of 10 will have an idea of what challenges they face — quicksand, blow darts from angry natives, a curse and an Indiana Jones booby-trapped temple, for starters.
But that age of 10 proviso is key, here. This is a childish adventure film, deliberately so.
What the screenwriters went for is that “Brady Bunch Movie” approach — a little nostalgia, a bit of fish-out-of-water/character-out-of-her-time comic displacement.
Dora looks at her world with childish wonder, and darned if she doesn’t sing about it.
“Maybe a song will help!”
Nobody does that at 16, not if they don’t want to be called “Dorka.”
“I have to be myself,” she insists. And Diego, sweet as he is on Mean Smart Girl Sammy (Madden), embarrassed as he is, has to respect that.
I was iffy on the whole “Let Dora grow up a little” idea, and darned if some cringe-worthy critic hasn’t wondered why we aren’t treated to a more hormonal Dora.
But that’s not a concern here. I was far more bugged by the admittedly comical presence of Boots and Swiper. Keep her six, and they’re “imaginary friends.” They could even be imaginary at 16. Not if everybody else sees them, though.
So what? It’s still as charming as a ham-fisted Hollywood treatment of a kids’ cartoon can be. I don’t see why any ten year-old wouldn’t adore Dora.
MPAA Rating: PG for action and some impolite humor
Cast: Isabel Moner, Jeff Wahlberg, Eva Longoria, Madeleine Madden, Temuera Morrison, Q’orianka Kilcher, Eugenio Derbez and Michael Peña.
Credits: Directed by James Dobbin, script by Matthew Robinson and Nicholas Stoller, based on the Nickeloden TV series. A Paramount release.
Running time: 1:42