Dora and the Lost City of Gold is about the title character, Dora (Isabella Moner), a socially inept teenager with deadbeat parents who seemed content to let their only child be raised by a monkey. Along the way, mom (Elena, played by Eva Longoria) and dad (Cole, played by Michael Peña) wander into the jungle in search of the title city, packing their daughter off to “the city” and their relatives. “The city,” by the way, is Los Angeles. I have no idea why they cannot just call it by its name.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a confusing movie. Who is the intended audience? My first thought would be kids. After all, every single trailer before it began were of the animated variety. Do kids still watch Dora the Explorer? I have two nieces that are under ten years old and they do not watch it. And the content of the film is all over the map. Ha! Get it? Map?! Hey kids, isn’t it funny that Sammy dressed as Ruth Bader Ginsburg? No? So if the children did not squeal with giggles at this cinematic nod to our Supreme Court, then it resorts to cheap laughs by having the same character sing while pooping in a hole in the jungle.
In the past, parents raved to me about other kids movies and how funny they are to watch. “They’re really not for kids!” they exclaim with a certain level of mania. They usually have the look of people who have “seen things,” the ghostly whispers of their shrieking children floating past like a whisper on the wind. To be fair, these are usually the animated movies, and Dora and the Lost City of Gold, while having a period where the characters are done much like the old cartoon, is a live-action film. Why does it suddenly shift into its old-mode of presenting Dora? Because the characters inhale a hallucinogen! Isn’t that fun?!
Oh, and let’s take a look at the awesome way Dora and the Lost City of Gold presents Incan culture, and history in general. So apparently the Incans are literally immortal, magical people because, I don’t know, ancient aliens? Thanks Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which I actually liked)! Then there are the crossbows wielded by the immortal Incan guards. History fail! Maybe I am making too much over a movie that is supposedly made for “kids,” but then again (as I understand it) the original cartoon was supposed to be educational. If so, then please do not expect our young ones to believe that the Spanish built solo standing opera houses in the middle of the jungle! “¿Señora, a dónde vas esta noche?” “¡Señor! A la ópera en la jungla.” Hey kids, can you say “¡No, Señora, no?!”
Okay, the lessons that Dora and the Lost City of Gold tries to get across, and when viewed through a very narrow lens succeeds at, is that people just need to be themselves. Dora was born to be the always upbeat explorer wherever she goes. There is no character development in the end, however. She starts off perky, is tested somewhat by the ordeal of having to save her ridiculous parents, and ends the film just as perky as ever. My character is informed by my faith, and to grow in knowledge of self is to also grow in closeness with God. Dora is vacuous, but she can identify a poisonous frog by sight, and can speak Quechua! Yay!
There are worse movies than Dora and the Lost City of Gold. I just did not get it, though it was very obviously not aimed at me. I have no clue who it was aimed at, still. Poor Michael Peña. He once did serious, socially conscious films like Crash (2004) and End of Watch (2012). If you watch closely, you can almost make out him blinking “Help! I’ve been kidnapped into Dora and the Lost City of Gold!” in Morse code. Me too, buddy, me too. If you never watched a single episode of Dora the Explorer, and could care less for her or her blue monkey, maybe that is a reason to sit there for its two hour run time?