Director James Bobin (Alice Through the Looking Glass) brings this long-running, animated children's character to the screen - and her teens - through a screenplay by Matthew Robinson (Monster Trucks) and Nicholas Stoller (Muppets Most Wanted). While just fun enough to be a good night of entertainment, there are moments where the writers go overboard in their dedication to the source.
When her parents find a lead on a long-lost Incan city, Dora (Isabela Moner) is excited to join them. To her surprise and disappointment, they have other plans, intending that she grow by living in the city with her cousin and best friend Diego (Jeff Wahlberg). However, the jungle follows her, and she and Diego soon find themselves back in South America with two classmates, in a race to save both her parents and themselves from unscrupulous treasure hunters.
The scriptwriters were wise enough to recognize that the film would not work without poking fun at the source material. This often coalesces and is exceptional in certain scenes, but excessive in others. Even the most loyal of former and current fans could occasionally find themselves cringing. But as an adventure story for children, it plays out well, providing plenty of action and as solid a script as could be expected, without anything inappropriate or too scary. Interwoven in the film are couple of well-played and unassuming lessons for viewers of the right age.
Most of the actors are adequate in their roles without being exceptionally memorable. As in the original series, though, it is all about Dora, and Moner's exuberance and near-perfect performance in the role tie the rest of the cast together, making every portrayal work just right. This was probably the intent Bobin had in mind, and it works smoothly.
The action is right on point, thanks to well-managed cinematography that follows the adventure without getting lost in it. The CGI on Boots (Danny Trejo) and Swiper (Benicio Del Toro) never looks artificially placed, although the characters are too cartoonish to feel completely organic in the otherwise live-action film. Unlike many modern films, the special effects do not attempt to become the star of the show, and the technical departments largely give commendable efforts.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold doesn't delve too deeply beyond entertainment (and that is fine), although it does present a good exercise in how seemingly different people can find solid ground together. Given that it is aimed at a PG audience that probably grew up on the show and might experience similar difficulties in their own lives as teens, the lesson might be una experiencia oportuna!