I was pretty pessimistic about Dora and the Lost City of Gold I must admit. The trailers looked extremely childish and focused on the humor of the film, which admittedly is pretty dumb. What the ads didn’t focus on was the relationships and sense of adventure. So the only impression I could get out of the trailers was some Nickelodeon movie targeted solely to little kids. Family films that are lazy and simply pander to little children really get on my nerves because we’ve all seen really great films of this genre that are able to please both the young and old. Thankfully the really low bar humor only takes up about 5 minutes of an hour and forty minute film.
The main leads really do a great job of taking their roles seriously. Isabela Moner is a great Dora and I was thoroughly impressed. In order to play a character like Dora, you have to take it as seriously as possible in order to give the audience a worthy performance – especially since she’s the lead. She carries this wonderful energy around and has that upbeat nature that’s crucial for this film. And the really good thing is that the positivity doesn’t seem stupid or forced. Jeffrey Wahlberg makes for a great Diego, he not only plays well opposite Moner but just fits the role in general. Madeleine Madden’s performance is admirable. I liked that they made her character smart and very self confident, even if it was obviously over bearing at first. She begins to soften up in time and makes for a supporting character that’s able to shine. Dora’s parents are played by Eva Longoria and Michael Pena, I’m a longtime fan of Longoria from her star making role in Desperate Housewives. I thought Longoria fit her role well and made a delightful mother.
Michael Pena on the other hand was actually kind of cringeworthy and it could have been the writing for his character, I’m not sure, but whatever it was, his character amounted to poor childlike humor. The same problem exists with Eugenio Derbez and his character. At first he was fine, not great or groundbreaking but not bad either. But as the film went on, he just had nothing but slapstick humor that falls flat. I’m thankful that the two characters that disappoint are supporting and all the leads work so well together.
That’s another positive here, the lead teenage characters have stellar chemistry! That is a must when it comes to these type of family adventures, I have to sense that these people fit well together, that is where a lot of the feeling comes from. The adventure aspect of the film works extremely well. The pace isn’t too fast or slow and the writing creates plenty of stops for these characters on their journey, keeps your attention. I never felt bogged down or bored, I was actually pretty impressed that a Dora film had this good of an adventure.
The visuals are great too. There’s plenty of really beautiful imagery when it comes to the jungle and the City of Gold. Environment is of course a huge contributing factor as to whether or not an adventure film works and this one nails that aspect. The characters, their chemistry, and the adventure are the factors that make this film so good. I really wish the comedy was on that same level. I of course understand that it’s Dora and some of the comedy is going to be targeted at the younger audience, but every single joke is low bar here. Not only did I not laugh at any of the humorous moments but I actually looked down during a couple of them. What’s disappointing about the humor being so low quality is that we’ve seen examples of family films that have humor that’s able to please the young and old. I’m grateful the bad humor makes up a very small portion here; the comedy is the main negative.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a good example of how to make a worthy family friendly adventure. This film works because of the cast, their chemistry and the adventure. The low bar comedy is the only downside.