The first 40 minutes or so of “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” are legitimately clever, funny, deconstructive, and engaging in a way that nobody would ever anticipate a Dora the Explorer movie being; so much so that they may very well supercede any of the hard criticisms I can possibly muster up for the substantially less clever second half.
Poking fun at the quirks of the preschool learning cartoon, before shifting gears towards packaging said quirks into a more contemporary form with the help of an impeccably earnest performance by Isabela Moner that perfectly toes the line between laughable dorkiness and lovable sincerity, then finally deconstructing all of it by making her a fish out of water struggling to hold her wholesome head up high amongst a cynical Society of high schoolers is a memorably surreal rollercoaster for two major reasons.
The first of these reasons is that when these things are happening, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is surprisingly and genuinely compelling.
The film doesn't shy away from the bizarreness of its own concept but embraces and humanizes it. As weird as Dora is, her predicament is instantly relatable and watching the cultural Clash that ensues he's infinitely more fascinating than the Bland, trite, hodgepodge of Adventure movie cliches that populate the second half of the movie as it shifts gears into a soulless and lazy jungle Adventure, which segues nicely into reason number two.
Seeing a movie shockingly achieve such an accidentally perfect character study narrative only two unravel with a cliche back half that contradicts the logic brought forth and by the first half would ordinarily be a substantial deal breaker but for a production that apparently had Michael Bay attached as a producer at some point in time, it almost doesn’t even seem fair to penalize it for inevitably coming the cash grab that it devolves into.
I think I’d ultimately rather revel in the fact that we somehow manage to exist in a reality where a live action Dora The Explorer movie exists and despite inevitably going off the rails in the way one would expect it to, it somehow managed to hold itself together long enough to tell a real story with heart and provide a young actress with a potential break out mainstream performance.
That’s worth thinking on more than almost anything that actually happens in the movie.
3 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.