Nearly 20 years’ worth of tinies have grown up on the beloved Dora The Explorer’s TV cartoon jungle jaunts. But James Bobin’s cheery if wholesomely predictable live-action big-screen transplant takes a gently spoofing tone, getting knowing gags out of Dora’s (Isabela Moner) bottomless backpack and trademark smiley to-camera questions.
When her explorer parents (a doting Eva Longoria and Michael Peña) flip her from the Amazon into a snobby LA high school, the film is on full comic mode, as knowledge-loving chirpy ‘Dorka’ becomes a socially scorned misfit. But a Goonies-style old-school adventure kicks in when she and a group of classmates are kidnapped by mercenaries tracking her parent’s secret expedition to Parapata, the Incan City of Gold.
While the quarrelling, wisecracking teens pick their way fearfully through the Peruvian jungle, the film opts for a slapstick vibe, throwing head-scratching Inca puzzles, whooshy water-slide tunnels and booby-trapped temples at them. With the jeopardy strictly PG (deadly quicksand is a riot of fart noises), the film’s playful aspect is its best side, milking CGI creations Boots the monkey (voiced by Danny Trejo) and the thieving Swiper the fox (Benicio Del Toro) for cosy laughs.
If it comes up short on the thrills and spills, Moner’s hilariously upbeat Dora is downright delightful, especially when forced to school her cooler compadres in the jungle’s secrets. Parents will appreciate the snappy-not-sappy eco messages and pro-learning stance, firmly on the side of the team player rather than the tomb raider.