4 Things Parents Should Know about 'Dora and the Lost City of Gold'

Dora is a bubbly and joy-filled teenager who views the world differently than her classmates.

She loves high school. They hate it.

She encourages the unpopular kids. They bully them.

She sings upbeat songs – wearing a big smile to boot. They drag through the day, wishing they were home.

Of course, Dora wasn’t raised like the other kids. She grew up in a South American jungle, playing with monkeys and carrying around snakes.

Her explorer/professor parents taught her to respect nature and to be kind to others. Most of all, they raised her with a love for learning and life. She didn’t – gasp – grow up with smartphones, social media and television. And she’s better for it.

But then she moved to California. And then she entered high school. And then she encountered creatures – ornery teens – she’s never seen.

She’s tamed the jungle. But can she tame her classmates?

The Nickelodeon movie Dora and the Lost City of Gold (PG) opens this weekend, starring Isabela Moner (Instant Family) as Dora, Eva Longoria (Dog Days) as her mother, and Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp) as her father.

It’s a live-action adaptation of the popular animated series Dora the Explorer. Only this time, Dora is more grown-up.

The movie follows Dora as she and three friends get kidnapped and taken back to South America, where the bad guys want her to help them find a lost city of gold.

Here are four things parents should know:

Photo courtesy: Nickelodeon

1. It’s Full of Optimism and Cheer

Perhaps some people – people like her scoffing high school classmates – will find Dora annoying. But I viewed her as a breath of fresh air. She has the infectious optimism of the bear in Paddington and the innocent joy for life that Will Ferrell’s character displayed in Elf. When her snarky classmates call her names, she smiles. When they make fun of her desire to learn, she ignores them. 

Dora even enjoys the cafeteria food. 

“Have you tried this? It’s incredible,” she says of her lunch. “What is it?”    

“Mac and cheese,” a classmate responds.

Dora then walks back to the lunch line, where she compliments the cooks. 

Cynicism and negativism dominate our culture. God hates it. We need more people like Dora, not less. 

Photo courtesy: Nickelodeon

2. It Provides a Great Role Model for Girls

I watched Dora and the Lost City of Gold sitting next to my seven-year-old daughter. Not once did I have to lean over and say, “Don’t act like that.”

Dora is full of positive characteristics. She’s honest. She’s cheerful. She’s humble. She loves to learn. She looks for the good in others, and she ignores the bad. She leads by example. She puts others before herself. 

Her personality stands in stark contrast to her friends, who are only trying to impress others.  

When her cousin Diego grows embarrassed by her joy-filled antics (“They are mocking you. Don’t you see it?”), she responds, “Of course I do. I’m just being myself.”  

That’s pretty good advice for all of us: Ignore the bullies in life. Christian parents can add an even more powerful lesson: Find your joy and identity in Christ – and not in others.

One more thing: The film doesn’t sexualize Dora, as happens in far too many big-studio films with popular characters that are “modernized.” Kudos to Nickelodeon for that. 

Photo courtesy: Nickelodeon

3. It’s Goofy… and Funny, Too

Remember: It’s a Nickelodeon movie aimed at tweens and older children. This means there’s plenty of quirky and goofy humor that parents might find annoying but that kids will view as side-splitting. Yet there’s plenty of jokes that are funny for adults, too.

Thankfully, Dora and the Lost City of Gold – unlike, say, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle– stays in the kid-friendly realm for comedy, even if it does include a few mentions of “poo.” 

I laughed out loud multiple times. My children did, too.

Photo courtesy: Nickelodeon

4. It’s Family-Friendly

This Dora film might not win any major awards, but it provides something that’s rare in Hollywood: A live-action film the entire family can enjoy. 

The language is nearly non-existent (two barely heard OMGs are muttered, along with a few name-calling labels like “disco Dorka”) and the sexuality/sensuality is minimal (we see two teenagers – Dora’s not one of them – kiss).

The violence and disturbing content, too, are minimal. Dora and her friends get kidnapped, but it’s not too scary. They get chased by the bad guys and shot at by dart guns, but it’s played for laughs. They nearly die in quicksand, and then in a pool of water, and then in a collapsing room, but they’re cracking jokes throughout. Only the most sensitive children would find it disturbing.

There is one caveat: The plot involves Incan gods and myths that are treated as real. We watch an elderly woman morph into a young queen. We see a character try to appease the gods. If you go, then this unbiblical worldview may be worth a discussion on the ride home.

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Family-friendly rating:4 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for action and some impolite humor. 

Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.

Photo courtesy: Nickelodeon

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