Isabela Moner brings the animated character to exuberant life as she heads into the jungle to find her missing mom and pop
Paramount’s long-planned live-action Dora the Explorer movie proves an appreciably peppy entertainment. James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, the writer/director pairing behind The Muppets (2011), reframe the wide-eyed, song-prone heroine of Nickelodeon’s educative teatime treat much as Enchanted (2007) did decades of Disney princesses, pitching a picture-book avatar into something like reality. At first we’re encouraged to laugh at an in-every-sense curious figure, then nudged towards an acknowledgement that this open-minded, forward-looking Latin Pollyanna might still teach civilisation a thing or two. It’s the only family film on release to broach the issue of how to escape quicksand intact.
The first act is slightly more subversive than what follows. When her parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) set off in search of Eldorado, the now teenage Dora (Instant Family’s Isabela Moner) is dispatched to relatives in LA, where she creates havoc at school security with her well-stuffed backpack and calls out Moby-Dick for cultural appropriation. Thereafter, the film settles into a conventional matinee arc, with the players returned to colourful jungle landscapes, as per Sony’s Jumanji reboot, in search of the suddenly missing mom and pop.