Move over, men-on-a-mission movies: With “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” it’s time for a girl to take the lead in an adventure that the tween-age set should find adorkable.
With its sense of silly comedy, family fun, solid sentimentality and a heroine who reminds of a young Indiana Jones, Dora just might bring along some fans from different age groups as well.
This is an example of an animated program turned live-action entertainment in a successful way.
And you can count me among those who smiled often at memories of an animated Dora’s adventures and little songs; my oldest daughter was born in 2000, and so was “Dora the Explorer” on Nickelodeon.
I can’t remember all the words from those days, but the talking backpack took me back.
So did the map with a mouth (“I’m the map, I’m the map ... ” repetition for young minds) and “Swiper, no swiping!” (chanted three times to ward off a fox always trying to foil Dora’s adventure).
Things are a little different now, as that original Dora was about age 7, and she got a later update to middle-school years, and the movie updates her again to a teen who’s leaving the jungle and headed to high school.
Of course, the movie begins in the rainforest with Dora living with her parents and delivering some of the movie’s best self-aware laughs.
“Delicioso!” Dora exclaims at the dinner table (among her many Spanish-language references consistent with the show). “Can you say ‘delicioso?’ ” she asks, breaking the fourth wall as in the cartoon and looking at viewers for a response.
Her father, played by the brilliant Michael Pena, looks nervously around with a who’s-she-talking-to? expression, to which Mom (Eva Longoria) responds with a “She’ll grow out of it” lack of concern.
It’s the old-school Dora mixed with the new in a satisfyingly comic manner, and as today’s Dora, Isabela Moner (“Transformers: The Last Knight”) is everything you want in a teen Latina to play the heroine.
From her iconic orange shorts and short-sleeved pink shirt to pulling off Dora’s feisty courage and relentlessly good-natured positivity (“Hi, I’m Dora!” is every energetic introduction), Moner embodies the heroine.
The plot is more involved than expected, too, with Dora’s explorer parents leaving on an expedition they see as too dangerous for their daughter, meaning she must move to Los Angeles and attend classes with her cousin Diego, whose family left the rainforest a decade earlier.
The idea is solidly executed: Dora never felt alone in the forest with her monkey, Boots, and other little friends.
But she’s never been more lonely than around people her own age who mock her “jungle-girl” nature, her over-the-top friendliness and her brains.
She’s smart and not afraid to show it, to the chagrin of competitive Sammy, the school’s over-achiever girl, and the amusement of Randy, the astronomy nerd — both of whom through circumstances end up kidnapped, along with Dora and Diego, and returned to the forest wilds.
It turns out Dora’s parents may be close to finding the “lost city of gold” from the title, and while they have the purity of an “explorer spirit” of discovery, there are treasure-hunting bad guys looking to swoop in and cash in with Dora’s directions.
This is where the movie adopts more of the cartoon’s episodic nature — Dora goes exploring on an adventure and must solve some kind of puzzle to advance in her pursuit.
To find her parents here, Dora must make it through “Jumanji”-like challenges and solve Indiana Jones-style riddles with friends both old and new, and with a style and quality of special effects that’s often lacking in real excitement.
But among Dora’s group members is a character played by Eugenio Derbez, a natural inclusion here considering his popularity with Hispanic audiences and his physical comedy gifts that are put to use when facing quicksand and other dangers.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” won’t be for everyone, but for those with a familiarity with and fond memories of Dora’s continuing adventures, this just might energize them to close with her celebration song.
Sing along: “We did it! We did it! We did it! Yay! Whoo! Hooray! We did it!”