Sunday, September 22, 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Dora and the Lost City of Gold; adventure comedy, USA, 2019; D: James Bobin, S: Isabela Moner, Jeff Wahlberg, Eugenio Derbez, Madeleine Madden, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo (voice)

Dora is an adventurous teenage girl living in the South American jungle. Her parents, Cole and Elena, send her to Los Angeles to attend high school and stay at her cousin's place, Diego. However, Diego is embarrassed by Dora's naive attitude. During a museum visit, Dora, Diego as well as students Sammy and Randy are abducted by criminals and brought to South American jungle, intending to blackmail Dora's parents into revealing them the location of an ancient Inca city of gold. The teenagers are saved by a man, Alejandro, who follows them on the search for the city. Later, when they find the city, Alejandro is revealed to be one of the kidnappers, but the guardians of the city arrest him and let Dora and the others go, reuniting them with Dora's parents.

Live action adaptations of cartoon shows are a tough task, and many simply cannot translate well to the real world or they are not true to the spirit of the original. One of them is this odd mish-mash, "Dora and the Lost City of Gold", which is an adaptation of the educational cartoon "Dora the Explorer": casting Isabela Moner was a stroke of genius, since she is excellent in the leading role—but nothing else in the film works. In fact, it is almost as if the movie hinders her. The script has trouble resisting keeping with the tone of Dora's innocence, and thus inserts several strange, misguided or heavy handed "raunchy" gags at times, which clash badly with the attitude of the title heroine. One example is the sequence where Alejandro is sinking in quick sand, but all of a sudden two scorpions show up, climb on his head and mate. And then they leave. So what was the point of these two scorpions? Other jokes are just plain bland. The movie has no inspiration or spark to sustain the attention of the viewers. A rare exception that proves otherwise are the joke where the high school "Diva" Sammy says to Dora "If you aim for the Queen, you better not miss!" or when the monkey, Boots, secretly unties the rope on hands of the teenagers behind the villain's back, but when the said villain turns each time, the monkey pretends to be just hanging around, not doing anything in particular. Some moments also address that awkward feeling of adolescence and transition, yet it does not ring that true. However, one has to admit one thing in the movie: Dora is an irresistibly optimistic and contagiously positive character, something rarely seen in the often pessimistic tendency of movies, and thus one can only hope that Moner will someday bring this "frequency" to a worthier film.


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