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Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Review by Rich Cline |
dir James Bobin
prd Kristin Burr
scr Nicholas Stoller, Matthew Robinson
with Isabela Moner, Michael Pena, Eva Longoria, Eugenio Derbez, Jeff Wahlberg, Madeleine Madden, Nicholas Coombe, Temuera Morrison, Christopher Kirby, Natasa Ristic, Adriana Barraza, Q'orianka Kilcher
voices Benicio Del Toro, Danny Trejo
release US 9.Aug.19,
19/US Paramount 1h42
Essentially live-action but with a cartoonish tone, this jaunty adventure playfully brings the intrepid young explorer into her teens for a silly Indiana Jones-style romp. With James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets) directing and writing, the film is packed with witty references to the old cartoons, lively verbal and visual gags, and an attitude that never takes itsel seriously. Which means there's also no suspense.
After growing up in the Amazon with her brainy parents (Pena and Longoria), 16-year-old Dora (Moner) heads to Los Angeles for high school with her cousin Diego (Wahlberg), although her relentless perkiness is alien on campus. On a field trip, she and Diego, along with smart-mean girl Sammy (Madden) and geeky Randy (Coombe), are kidnapped by three thugs (Morrison, Kirby and Ristic) who are trying to find Dora's parents and the gold hidden in the legendary Inca city of Parapata. Escaping, they team up with Professor Alejandro (Derbez) as they race to the treasure.
The script's most clever point is that there's a big difference between an explorer and a treasure hunter. Dora is a big-hearted protagonist even when she's being annoyingly nice, turning to make points to-camera ("Can you say neurotoxicity?") or trying to get other kids to sing and dance at inopportune moments. Yes, there are also poo and fart jokes for the kids. And yes, Pena gets to deliver a couple of riotously funny riffs.
The actors play it fairly straight around the explosion of energy that is Moner. It's easy to empathise with those who are exhausted by her chirpy optimism, but Moner also layers plenty intelligence, compassion and emotional vulnerability to make her likeable. Wahlberg, Madden and Coombe build terrific camaraderie as her reluctant sidekicks. Derbez is enjoyably dopey as the slapstick adult in their crew. And both Del Toro and Trejo have fun voicing thieving fox Swiper and Dora's monkey pal Boots, respectively.
The production design is reliably cheap and cheerful, with oddly ugly digital effects (Boots is downright hideous). And it looks like they shot the jungle scenes on the old set from Gilligan's Island. But the multi-ethnic tone is terrific, with some key moments in Spanish and Quechua, plus some very cool magical realism. And Bobin's relentlessly cheerful vibe makes it difficult for adults to remain grumpy about all of the goofiness, peppering the movie sophisticated gags that add some barbed comedy along with the uplifting message.
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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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