There are family films then there's Dora and the Lost City of Gold. What helps James Bobin's picture rise above its inherent silliness must be Isabela Moner. She's got star appeal in the leading role.
At face value, Dora comes across as a dreamer. She is bright and cheerful, yet the students at her new school dub her "Dor-ka." Not very nice of them.
Meanwhile, her parents played by Michael Pena and Eva Longoria have shuffled off in search of a mythological Inca city called Parapata. They don't seek gold only knowledge. It's not long before Dora and some new friends, including a sidekick monkey named Boots, find themselves captured. Apparently, others desire the location of Parapata simply for the riches. So, Dora and company make their escape, hoping they'll find the treasure before the baddies.
Did I mention there's singing as well? Without Moner, Dora and the Lost City of Gold would be another cringe-worthy product cynically aimed at gathering as many families into the cinema as possible. Quite a few turned up for the screening I attended. Indeed, suspending disbelief goes with the territory as everything from Goonies to National Treasure and Raiders of the Lost Ark ends referenced to some degree or another.
While the film won't knock down the house in the originality department, it does boast an increasingly rare commodity: charm. As such, Moner proves quite superb. She gives the audience a reason to care. Quite simply, when she smiles it warms your heart.
Now there are drawbacks to mimicry. Notably, the soundtrack favours a simplistic conveyor belt of cliches. Actually, John Debney pulled this trick twenty years previously on Inspector Gadget. The latter was hilarious in lifting themes from such lauded productions as Mission: Impossible. Yet working with Germaine Franco has done little to shake the feeling we have heard this stuff before and it was better the first time.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "PG" by MPAA.)
For more information about Dora and the Lost City of Gold, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.