There are, to put it mildly, a few odd turns in James Bobin’s super-woke adaptation of the famous Nickelodeon tv show and the ubiqutous children’s books . An opening title card focusing the attention of young minds of the issues of stereotyping? Talking monkeys and foxes, voiced by Danny Trejo and Benicio del Toro? A little strange but, ok, whatever….
…But no, there’s more. How about a lengthy slam on rave culture delivered by Michael Pena complete with a human mouth beat-box performance of a rave tune? How about an animated sequence when the main characters are hallucinating on some mysterious jungle substance that makes Eugenio Deberez’s character want to strip naked and run through the jungle? This version of Dora has a lot going for it, not least the ideal Dora in the form of Instant Family’s breakout star Isabela Moner, now Isabela Merced, who manages to make her bright without being insufferable.
Even the main plot, which gives Dora a mission to survive in the jungle of a LA school, seems a little off message, and the venomous behaviour of the villains who kidnap her seems rather mean. Emphasis on breaking wind, toilet breaks and swearing also seems a little lowest common denominator. The second half of the film, where the puzzles and intrigue take over, gets Dora onto more solid ground, and Bobin’s film eventually makes land as a family entertainment.
Perhaps the rather muted box-office reception for Dora indicates a failure to appeal to the young female demographic intended; by aiming at so many different targets, Bobin’s film doesn’t focus enough on satisfying anyone. And the distinction between exploring and treasure hunting, carefully made to tick environmental boxes, feels like we’re being lectured when we should be outside enjoying ourselves. Still, this Dora is enough fun to be going on with, and its goody-two-shoes heroine is probably preferable to the sexist stereotypes of the recent Jumanji films.