Dora the Explorer Proves Knowledge Is the Greatest Treasure in ‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’

She’s been all over the rainforest, dodging poisonous frogs, quicksand, and other dangers, but in “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” Dora the Explorer (rising comedic talent Isabela Moner) takes on her biggest challenge yet, being a American teenager. This live-action version of the popular children’s animated series takes the beloved Latinx heroine out of her natural habitat for a fun, fish-out-of-water adventure.

When we first meet Dora (Madelyn Miranda as a child), she is an adorable and precocious six-year-old girl whose best friend are a monkey, Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo), and her equally curious cousin, Diego (Malachi Barton as a child, Jeff Wahlberg as a teen). But just like the rainforest, life has seasonal change, and Dora is heartbroken to see Diego move from their South American jungle home to be with his mother who has taken a job “in the city” (Los Angeles?).

Cut to ten years later, and puberty has done little to squash Dora’s sunny disposition. It certainly helps that her professor parents, zoologist Elena (Eva Longoria) and archeologist Cole (Michael Peña) are more than encouraging when it comes to their daughter’s thirst for knowledge. They’re an unusually close and supportive family unit, which makes it all the harder for Dora when Elena and Cole break the news that thy are going off to seek the ancient Incan city of Parapata, a.k.a. the Lost City of Gold, without her. Not only that, they’re sending her off to live with her grandmother (Adriana Barraza) and Diego, and it’s safe to say that little she has learned in the rainforest has adequately prepared her for the jungle that is high school. 

Once Stateside, Dora is disappointed to discover that Diego is not the same carefree kid she used to know. Despite his new cool guy persona, he’s still cares about his cousin and wants her to fit in at school, but even he can’t save her when she walks through the metal detectors with a full survival pack and one-ups the class know-it-all, Sammy (Madeleine Madden). A lot of fun comes out of Dora’s being a fish out of water in the city, and while her inability to pick up on social cues may make her a laughing stock, her refreshing optimism and determination to stay true to herself and see the good in everyone make her a great role model for the target audience here, kids.

The plot takes a turn after Dora, Diego, Sammy, and certified dork Randy (Nicholas Coombe) get kidnapped by mercenaries during a museum field trip and end up back in the rainforest. Now it’s the city kids’ turn to be out of their element, and it’s up to Dora to not only save the teens, but also to stop the gold-hungry mercenaries from getting to her parents. Along for the ride is Alejandro (the always delightful Eugenio Derbez), a nutty professor who introduces himself as a friend of Elena and Cole’s. 

From here, the jungle becomes Dora and the gang’s own personal escape room, and director James Bobin, along with screenwriters Nicholas Stoller and Matthew Robinson, do an excellent job of creating obstacles, and even life-or-death situations. There are stunning visuals that worth mentioning as well, not only in the opulent Parapata, but also along the way there, as Dora and Alejandro at one point find themselves inside of a field of hallucinogenic orchids.

While not as subversive, “Dora and the Lost City of  Gold” is reminiscent of “The Brady Bunch Movie,” another comedy that found humor in taking beloved TV characters and dumping them in the real world. At the end of it all, the filmmakers had to find the balance between being overly cynical and too hokey, and they a fine job of presenting a movie that has great lessons for kids and plenty of laughs for the adults.

Dora and the Lost City of  Gold” opens Aug. 9 nationwide.