FlixChatter Review: Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a new family adventure live action film, based on the popular Nickelodeon animated television series Dora the Explorer. If you are like me (and you don’t watch Nickelodeon on a regular basis—OR AT ALL!!), you may have heard of Dora the Explorer from Saturday Night Live’s TV Funhouse animated skit spoof, where they switch Dora’s name with the name “Maraka”, and do pretty much what Dora does on Nickelodeon but with the SNL twist.

Hola. Hello. I’m Maraka. Soy Maraka,” says Maraka, standing next to an animated kitten. “Do you know who this is?” ask Maraka to the audience. “That’s right, I’m Mittens. Soy Mittens,” says the animated kitten. “Mittens is a cat. Mittens es un gato,” continues Maraka. And then Maraka throws you a curve ball: “Do you like Penguins?” Both Maraka and Mittens wait for five or six seconds, blinking here and there, while they wait for your answer. “Me too! Mittens and I are on our way to Penguin Island. Can you break a fifty?” asks Maraka, showing you a fifty dollar bill. Then they’re off on a hot balloon ride towards Penguin Island, breaking out a song—in English AND Spanish. And this is all you need to know to understand what makes Dora the Explorer so unique and strange animation at the same time.

Similarly to the Saturday Night Live version of Dora the Explorer, the movie Dora and the Lost City of Gold introduces you right away to a young version of Dora (Madelyn Miranda) and her cousin Diego (Malachi Barton) who are living somewhere in the jungle, each with their parents. Dora has an animated monkey, Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo), who is her sidekick in jungle exploration. Of course, he understands her and speaks to her. One day, Diego’s parents decide to move to the city (somehow that ends up being Los Angeles). That leaves Dora to stay with her parents, going on adventures exploring the jungle. A few years later, an older, teenaged Dora (Isabela Moner) is told by her mother Elena (Eva Longoria) and father Cole (Michael Peña) that they have found an Incan treasure that they had been on the hunt for years, but she couldn’t come with them to find the treasure. Instead, she would be sent to live with her aunt, uncle and also-teenaged cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) in the city.

Once she arrives in Los Angeles, Dora finds Diego less-than enthusiastic about her arrival, seemingly being a normal American teenager who is embarrassed by his cousin’s exuberance. The next day, they are sent to high school in the city, and Dora being herself sets off the school metal detectors with all kinds of tools and weapons used in jungle, found inside her school backpack. In class, Dora seems to be one of the smartest students, being home-schooled by her parents, but has competition from another girl named Sammy (Madeleine Madden). Dora is mostly ignored by her cousin Diego throughout the day; while in the lunchroom (she does complement all the lunch ladies and lunch gentlemen, of course) she befriends another geeky student named Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and develops a crush on him. Later, at a school dance Dora embarrass Diego yet again, which frustrates him to no end and alienates him from his group of friends.

The next day, while on a school trip the Museum of Natural History, the students are told to make groups of four and go on a scavenger hunt. All students form groups…all but Diego, Sammy, Randy and Dora. Left with no choice, they form the last group and are led to the basement by a museum docent who overhears their conversation about the scavenger hunt. They get tricked and are locked inside a large crate, then knocked out by sleeping gas. Once they wake up, they find that they have been flown on an airplane to the jungle. They get unexpected help from a guy named Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez) who tells them that he is a friend of Dora’s parents and is here to help them. While being chased by the treasure-hunting mercenaries, the teenagers and Alejandro escape into the jungle to try to find Dora’s missing parents. The treasure-hunting mercenaries are hot on their trail, and are aided by the sly animated character Swiper the Fox (voiced by Benicio del Toro).

Soon enough, the teenagers and Alejandro find Dora’s parents, but it turns out that Alejandro isn’t the savior he claims to be but is ***SPOILER*** (highlight to read)working with treasure-hunting mercenaries to find the long lost Incan treasure for himself.  This doesn’t come as a shocker, because if you have been following the story all along, you would realize that Dora’s parents have been safe all along and were just out of communication range while in the jungle. Luckily, the teenagers and Dora’s parents escape from the treasure-hunting mercenaries, and find the long lost Incan city of gold. This is where the movie turns more into Indiana Jones than it does Dora The Explorer . There are booby traps, gold idols and even Inca Princess Kawillaka (Q’orianka Kilcher) makes an appearance. Since this is a family-friendly movie, you can probably assume that all’s well that ends well… and you’d be correct!

The problem with Dora and the Lost City of Gold is that while it may work for a lovable animated child, like Dora, to be engaged in her kid adventures of life, it doesn’t work quite as well with real life teenage Dora, who is trying to be Indiana Jones more than she is Nancy Drew, putting her family and friends in real danger. It’s also bizarre that Dora is accompanied by a cartoony monkey and is being chased by a cartoon masked fox that runs on its hind two legs. Actress Isabela Moner does her best to portray the upbeat, sleuth-y main character, but the lines given to her by co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin feel like the belong more like on Nick Jr. than on the big screen. The jokes are very kid-friendly and will make most adults roll their eyes, as they try to land a punchline. What the movie has going for it is that it features a large Latin cast, speaks Spanish and doesn’t try to hide its cultural heritage. Also the actor that stands out the most is Eugenio Derbez, a Mexican actor and comedian that has found his way into some big Hollywood productions recently, including How to Be a Latin Lover and Geostorm.

Overall, Dora and the Lost City of Gold will appeal to those most nostalgic for the animated series, and to those kids who’ve outgrown the cartoons but have not yet moved on to the full-fledged superhero movies. This crowd of moviegoers (and their parents) will carry the film, and I could easily see it turning into a live action franchise for Nickelodeon. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough for adults to enjoy here, and the educational quotient of the movie leaves much to be desired.


  Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen Dora and the Lost City of Gold? Well, what did you think? 

TCFF Day 2 Continued: Reviews of ‘It’s A Disaster’ & ‘Bro’

It’s been a ton of fun watching more than 1 movie a day on the big screen. Thanks to TCFF, October is surely going to be my best movie-going month this year! Before I go to the reviews, I just want to say the film fest is going really well, nice to see the ShowPlace ICON Theatres abuzz with people coming and going all day long. Just want to give a shout out to Ingrid Moss, TCFF’s social media director for continuing to get the buzz out, and Lee Jordan and Don Stoltz who did a great job coordinating all the volunteers, and Lee actually doubles as a merchandise sales guy. You go guys!!

TCFF has a big red carpet area right next to the ticketing booth, and my blog friends and I couldn’t help posing in front of it 🙂

Ok, on to the reviews:

It’s A Disaster

I knew I wanted to see this movie as soon as I saw Julia Stiles‘ name in the cast, and the premise sounds like a good recipe for an oddball comedy. Set in a suburban house in California, the story centers on four couples who meet periodically for Sunday brunch. It seems like a ‘normal’ group thing, that is until they soon discover that the world may be about to end and they’re stuck in a house together.

You could call this a relationship comedy as we meet a bunch of quirky (read: crazy) characters all gather in one room together trying to attempt a civil brunch together. Stiles plays a doctor who’s bringing history teacher Glen (David Cross) on their third date to meet her friends.  The hosts are married couple Emma (Erinn Hayes) + Pete (Blaise Miller), and the guests are free-spirited married couple Lexi (Rachel Boston) + Buck (Nic Cage-lookalike Kevin M. Brennan), and the long-engaged Hedy (America Ferrera) + the alien conspiracy-obsessed Shane (Jeff Grace).

I think the less you know about the plot the better, as the joy is in discovering just what in the world is going on with each character. Most of the couples know each other for some time—Glen is the only ‘outsider’ if you will— but all of them create a bizarre dynamics that makes you wonder just how could they survive a brunch like this without killing each other in the end!

Todd Berger assembled a pretty good cast and arm them with sharp dialog filled with off-the-wall dry humor. He also has a cameo as the neighbor in the biohazard suit and his appearance is one of the funniest parts of the movie. The comedy isn’t slapstick or forced, I mean the situation themselves just lend to thigh-slapping laughter. These couples are so absorbed in their own universe that they’re so blatantly oblivious of what’s happening all around them, and even when they do find out, the way each of them cope with it is just hilarious. I think the sharp script and the dead-pan delivery is key here, and despite it being set in just one house the entire time, it doesn’t feel at all boring. The feeling of claustrophobia and isolation is intentional however, and it just adds to the whole zaniness of the whole thing.

Beneath all that craziness though, there are some moments of poignancy, even something a bit profound, that life is short and one really can’t take things for granted. It definitely makes you think that when doomsday looms, just what would you do with your last few hours of your life, and what’d happen to the relationship between you and whoever you happen to be stuck with in that given moment.

4 out of 5 reels


It’s a Disaster is playing again at TCFF this Wednesday Oct 17 at 9:15pm
Get your tickets now »


BRO

Bro was okay as far as movies go, but for it being the director Nick Parada’s first major film, it was pretty solid. For me, the cinematography was the shining attribute, then came the story.

The narrative falls almost into a Trainspotting formula, where people get involved with the wrong crowd, get in over their head, hit rock bottom, but ultimately they are able to regroup and learn valuable life lessons from their own mistakes. Instead of it being centered around English youth, it takes place in the Motocross subculture, where Cocaine, sex, and alcohol are the drugs of choice.

This is similar to movies like the ones in the Step Up series, where the acting and story aren’t as valued as the the athletic performances. Danny Trejo does have a minor role, but Beau Manley, a professional motocross racer, was the most interesting as far as actors go. The movie comes out for home viewing in December, and I was told that the deleted scenes and interviews that are included on the disc are worth a watch.

Maybe too many expletives were used, and the rhythm that the lines were delivered felt, well, like lines being delivered. Some of the scenes felt extraneous but all in all, this felt like a first attempt at directing and acting – but not unsuccessful by any means.

– review by Emery Thoresen

2 out of 5 reels


Read what fellow TCFF blogger June Neely thought of It’s A Disaster


What are your thoughts on either one of these films?