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an honorary for David Lynch 

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Review: Dora and the Lost City of Gold 

by Tony Ruggio

Dora the Explorer was after my time, a cartoon for young children that came around long after my Saturday morning cartoon days were over. And yet, despite being one completely uninitiated and cynical thirtysomething, I found Dora and the Lost City of Gold to be a charming delight. Aged up from the show, Dora’s now a teenager who has spent many of her formative years in the jungle with a pair of well-meaning archeologist parents (Michael Peña, Eva Longoria). Thrust into high school in Los Angeles, she’s an odd duck and beacon of positivity amid the cynical squalor of American modernity. Suck out all pretension and she’s simply the smartest, kindest person in the room. 

Isabella Moner is a bright-eyed, exuberant presence as Dora, always ready to sing or swing into a grand adventure...

She has a big heart and an even bigger reservoir of tools and tricks to help her navigate the jungle and jungle puzzles that pose any danger to her and her friends. It’s refreshing how director James Bobin and writers refrain from turning her into Moron Exhibit A when surrounded by the relatively unknown perils of high school or adolescent social norms. Dora’s new to it but she’s no dummy. She’s full of spunk and surprise, but without the overdone naivete that often accompanies fish-out-of-water hijinks. 

What sets Lost City apart from other TV cartoon adaptations is a cute loyalty to the tone and wild abandon of its forebear, including characters who don’t immediately translate to live action. There’s a running, robbing, talking fox named Swiper who looks like he stepped out of a Fantastic Mr. Fox spin-off, and he’s voiced by Benicio Del Toro of all people. There’s even an extended sequence wherein psychedelic flowers plunge Dora and friends into a fully 2D animated state. Add in anthropomorphic monkey Boots and villainous performances pitched waaay over the top, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting this was a movie-movie from time to time. 

Ultimately, this is a film aimed squarely at kids and tweens, and as such it often feels like a throwback to a time when kiddie flicks weren’t all computer animation. Once upon a time, a sense of true adventure permeated these movies, and at some point between internet and smartphones the real-kids-on-a-quest genre went away. Dora is very much about a ragtag group of kids on a quest, finding treasure and themselves, and it’s all the better for it. Stay for a foot-tapping musical sequence during the end credits.  


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Reader Comments (5)

I felt EXACTLY the same! It's definitely made for kids, so it's big and broad and has anthropomorphic animal characters that don't really seem to fit otherwise, but the cast (especially Isabella Moner) strikes just the right tone, and it never ever talks down to the audience. I had a lot of fun. It's quite shockingly good.

August 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan I having a fucking stroke. Who knew that a Dora The Explorer movie would have the critical reception it's having?!

August 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Chris: Honestly, I'm just hoping this means we get untested live-action cartoon adaptations from this same general late 90s/early 2000s time frame. Billy and Mandy? Codename: Kids Next Door? Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy? Fillmore!? (Note: NOT an interrobang, the exclamation point is part of the title.) Let's see what happens. Now, as for people asking about Fairly OddParents or Kim Possible? Yeah...let's let those, especially the for awhile.

August 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia


August 13, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Volvagia - Oh wow...

August 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEureka

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