FILM UNFILTERED - ‘Dora’ offers funny, family-friendly story

FILM UNFILTERED - ‘Dora’ offers funny, family-friendly story

*** 1/2 “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.”

A couple of years ago, the very funny internet site College Humor put out a fake movie trailer for a “Dora the Explorer” movie. This was in 2012 and they cast Ariel Winter, who was then and still is one of the stars of ABC’s “Modern Family” as middle child Alex Dunphy. As someone who appreciates high stakes and even fraudulent shenanigans on the internet, this bogus preview for an illegitimate movie was simply priceless. It aped and mimicked all of the telltale gags and phrases from the extremely popular, if not sometimes annoying, Nickelodeon cartoon. It was a great boost for the website and it surely didn’t hurt Winters’ career by any means. Now, seven years later comes the actual feature length film and it’s about as amusing and cute, though maybe not tongue-in-cheek, as the illicit one.

Skewing a little bit from source material though not too much, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” finds a teen Dora (Isabela Moner) still very enthralled with being an active and helpful part of her family with her explorer parents Cole, played by the ever awesome and funny Michael Pena, and Elena (Eva Longoria) and her trusted companion Boots the Monkey (Danny Trejo). The young actress emotes the right mix of exuberance and spunk just like the original animated girl did, and she seeks to please her parents and is very goal-orientated. When she suffers a mishap, her parents make the decision to ship her off to Los Angeles to spend some time with relatives, particularly her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg).

Much like “Crocodile Dundee” when he went from the Australian outback to the urban skyscrapers of New York City, Dora does of course immediately find herself unprepared for the rigors of the emboldened and self-absorbed teenage lifestyle of the modern high school and she is a fish out of water at first. The kids then find themselves on a field trip where they get abducted and sent back to South America in a quest to find a lost city of Gold, which her parents have been looking for for years. Of course, the real payoff for viewers of this film is enjoying young Dora as the hero who has to educate not only her peers on what’s right and wrong but also to help the adults in need, like bumbling explorer Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez).

The film has a lot of the payoffs and moments you’ll expect and remember from the infectious TV show and there are lots of little Easter eggs (references to the source material). This was actually a very cute, funny, and especially family-friendly film. Sure, there were a few eye rolling gags, one or two that might make you groan, but this is a film that echoes a classic like “The Goonies” or even more recent fare like Dwayne Johnson’s “Jumanji” reboot. While I might have preferred to see Ariel Winter back in the Dora outfit, I fear she has more than outgrown that outfit, so Isabela Moner does a great job of taking the role.

Director James Bobin certainly seemed like the right guy for this project having done two Muppet films and 2016’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” I suppose the only better guy might’ve been Robert Rodriguez, who made the popular “Spy Kids” series.

The film is rated PG.

ISABELA MONER, as Dora, and EUGENIO DERBEZ, as Alejandro, in “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.”