Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer, an educational animated series for children that ran from 2000 to 2006, shouldn’t work as a live-action Hollywood remake. Weirdly, this sprightly, self-aware action-adventure movie does. Director James Robin and co-writer Nicholas Stiller launch with the cartoon’s memorably bouncy theme tune. Within minutes a six year old Dora is breaking the fourth wall and asking the audience if they can say “delicious” (in the original TV show, Dora would teach viewers Spanish words and phrases). Dora’s simian compare Boots is computer-animated and integrated into the film’s ever so slightly surreal live action world without question.
Dora has grown up in the rain forests of Peru home schooled by her parents (a zoologist and an archeologist, played by Eva Longoria and Michael Pena respectively). They are explorers, the film insists not treasure hunters in one of its gentle swipes at colonialism. Now 16 years old, Dora is being sent to the city Los Angeles to attend high school with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) while her parents search for Parapata, the lost Incan city of gold. A relentlessly cheery brainiac with a propensity to burst into song, she soon earns the nickname Dorka, turning up to a themed school dance dressed as her the sun. Moner is a magnetic sunny screen presence. Seeing Dora navigate the wilds of high school would’ve been entertaining enough, but a kidnapping places her and her classmates back in the jungle.
In this section of the film there are jungle run style mazes and puzzles a farting bog of quicksand and a song about poo. A field of giant pink flowers precedes a triply, animated interlude. Berenice deli Toto voices a masked trickster fox. The result is goofily charming and a rare age appropriate children’s film in which the adults are silly and the kids, especially the girls, are smart.