Friday, 23 August 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold ★★★★☆

Well, here’s one of the biggest surprises of the year. At the time of writing this review, Dora & The Lost City of Gold is sitting pretty on Rotten Tomatoes at 80% - beating Disney’s 2019 Lion King, Dumbo and Aladdin remakes. Yep, this Dora update has bested not one, not two but three Disney films – at least on a critical level. I don’t imagine it’ll come anywhere near their box office. But Dora & The Lost City of Gold, directed by James Bobin, was expected by many to be an absolute shower of shit – and yet, somehow, against all odds, it has emerged as one of the best-reviewed family films of the year so far.

Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle, nothing could prepare Dora (Isabela Moner) for her most dangerous adventure yet - high school. Accompanied by a ragtag group of teens and Boots the monkey (inexplicably voiced by Danny Trejo), Dora embarks on a quest to save her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña) while trying to solve the seemingly impossible mystery behind a lost Inca civilization.

First and foremost, Dora & The Lost City of Gold boasts an absolutely fantastic performance from Isabela Moner at its centre. The rising star, who you may recognise from Transformers: The Last Knight, Sicario 2 and Instant Family, puts in a wonderfully layered and heart-warming performance as the wide-eyed young explorer. With the film aimed primarily at the now grown-up audience who grew up with the preschool TV series, the iconic heroine has been grown up too. While this is still absolutely aimed at a younger audience, it is far more sophisticated than the source programme – and the character of Dora has become a little more complex too, wonderfully performed by Moner.

The film, directed by James Bobin and co-written by Nicholas Stoller (the team who worked on 2011’s The Muppets) continue their love for self-aware, ironic humour with this surprisingly funny big-screen adaptation for a pretty basic TV series. All of Dora’s fourth-wall-breaking in the TV series is handled here so wonderfully and humorously, and a particularly funny sequence brings Dora’s iconic animation back to life on the big screen – only for us, the audience, to learn this sequence is a drug-fuelled sequence when our characters encounter hallucinogenic flowers on their adventure. Wow. Yep, this is certainly more mature than the source material.

This is funny, fresh and heartwarming fun that had absolutely no right to be this good. It’s by no means a masterpiece, obviously. But it’s got such an enormous heart and endless charisma thanks to the wonderful work from rising star Isabela Moner who could easily birth a whole franchise off the back of her work here. So, one of the biggest cinematic surprises of the year for sure. If you don’t believe me, watch the film - with an open mind – and I promise you’ll have a lot of fun. IF you don’t, you have absolutely no soul whatsoever and you cannot be saved…

Sam Love

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