Take 3: Dora and the Lost City of Gold Review

Originally, I was going to post my review for December’s Genre Grandeur. But, yesterday, I ended up watching Dora and the Lost City of Gold. So, I decided to review this movie instead. I’ll still publish my Genre Grander review, but it will appear on 18 Cinema Lane sometime this week. As I’ve said in two Word on the Street stories, Dora and the Lost City of Gold made Paramount, the film’s respective studio, lose money. One possible explanation lies in the movie’s less-than-stellar marketing campaign. Like a lot of people, I was not a fan of the film’s official trailer. To me, it felt like the studio didn’t understand the source material they were working with, similar to projects like Jem and the Holograms. This caused me not to see the movie in theaters. When I chose to rent it yesterday, I realized that the only theatrically released film from 2019 I reviewed was Avengers: Endgame. It became one of the reasons why I wanted to review Dora and the Lost City of Gold. Prior to watching this film, I have seen a few episodes of Dora the Explorer. But I don’t have fond memories of it like other people do. Let’s wrap this introduction up so we can go on a movie review adventure!

Dora and the Lost City of Gold poster
Dora and the Lost City of Gold poster created by Paramount Pictures, Paramount Players, Nickelodeon Movies, Walden Media, Media Rights Capital, and Burr! Productions. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dora_and_the_Lost_City_of_Gold_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I was pleasantly surprised by the acting performances in this film! I was familiar with who Isabela Moner was, as an actress, prior to watching Dora and the Lost City of Gold. This is because I have heard she starred in the 2017 film, Transformers: The Last Knight. She did a fantastic job at bringing the iconic Nickelodeon character to life! With a cheerful personality and a sunny disposition, Isabela helped carry this film with a well-rounded performance. Another memorable performance came from Madeleine Madden! In this film, she portrayed Sammy, a fellow classmate of Dora’s. Madeleine brought versatility to her role, allowing her character’s transformation to feel believable. Madeleine’s on-screen interactions with her co-stars also helped this transformation, showing that those with leadership qualities can also be contributing team members. Speaking of team members, Eugenio Derbez gave a stand-out performance as Alejandro. While portraying this character, he provided a balance of comedic and dramatic acting. Incorporating these two different types of acting is not an easy thing to do. However, Eugenio flawlessly pulled this off in his performance!

 

The scenery: For most of the film, the jungle provided scenery for this project. It helped make scenes involving this location visually appealing. The natural beauty of the jungle is captured well on film, allowing for the foliage to stand out and even compliment the movie. Within the jungle, there were structures that represented long abandoned places. It’s likely that these were constructed sets for the movie, but they looked very authentic. One great example is when Dora and her group encounter an ancient aqueduct. Because this location was shown above water and was also immersed in it, it shows the audience the original purpose of this structure and its place in history. This shows that the film’s creative team tried to make their film showcase this location as more than just a pretty place.

 

The messages and themes: At the beginning of the film, Dora’s father tells her that she should strive to be an explorer, not a treasure hunter. This piece of advice is a new take on the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination”. But it also opens the door to several important themes. The ideas of sharing a unique experience, friendship, and teamwork come directly from the aforementioned advice. These themes are shown through actions instead of just said through words. They also have a shareability among audience members of all ages. The film’s messages and themes were one of the strongest parts of the movie, as it was executed well throughout the script.

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Pink travel backpack image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/travel-lettering-with-watercolor-pink-backpack_2686676.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some of the CGI: For the most part, the CGI in Dora and the Lost City of Gold looked really good. However, there were some instances when the CGI looked poor. One example is when Dora is petting a baby alligator. If you look closely, you can tell where the animation was inserted into the scene. To me, this appeared off-putting, like the image of the alligator didn’t blend with the rest of the shot. While the encounters with poor CGI were few, I still was not a fan of that.

 

The jokes dragging on for a little too long: I found some of the jokes in this movie to be genuinely funny. But other jokes went on for a little too long. Just one example is when Dora’s father is imitating the sounds of techno music. This joke had the potential to be hilarious, but the length of the joke’s time ruined it for me. Had a few seconds of this joke been cut, it would have helped it reach the punch-line a lot sooner.

 

A somewhat confusing climax: I won’t spoil Dora and the Lost City of Gold if you haven’t seen it. But I will say that I found the climax to be somewhat confusing. This is because of two reasons. The first one is how some things are shown and talked about without being given an explanation. The second is how other things aren’t referenced before and/or after the climax. This made it difficult for me to remain fully invested in what was happening on screen.

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Image of jungle/rainforest created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/tree”>Tree photo created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

In the introduction of this review, I speculated that Dora and the Lost City of Gold became a box office failure due to a less-than-stellar marketing campaign. I find this to be a shame because the movie is better than I expected. Unlike what the trailer made me believe, the studio not only cared about the source material, but it seems like they tried their best to elevate it as well. The movie also has more heart than any of the marketing let on, providing messages and themes that can be revisited long after the movie is over. Dora and the Lost City of Gold is not one of my favorite movies of the year, but it definitely is a memorable one. I kind of feel bad that I didn’t give this film a chance sooner. However, I’m glad that I gave it a chance at all.

 

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

 

Have you seen any theatrically released films from 2019? Has there ever a movie that you regretted not seeing in theaters? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: James Dean will be Brought Back in Upcoming Film

Despite what the title suggests, this is not a joke. I actually came across this story when I saw Amber, from Hallmarkies Podcast, comment about it on Twitter. After the negative reaction this piece of movie news caused on the aforementioned social media platform, I knew I had to talk about it. There are several movie bloggers that I know who specialize in writing about the Classic Film Era, so I assume they’ll have thoughts on this topic as well. Two days ago, on November 6th, Alex Ritman, from the The Hollywood Reporter, reported that the creative team behind a film called Finding Jack will incorporate James Dean through the use of CGI. In this article, Alex wrote that the film’s directors, Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh, “obtained the rights to use Dean’s image from his family”. In relation to this, Anton Ernst said “We feel very honored this his family supports us and will take every precaution to ensure that his legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact. The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down”. As for the specifics on how Finding Jack’s creative team will bring James back, Alex states “that Dean’s performance will be constructed via “full body” CGI using actual footage and photos. Another actor will voice him”. According to the article, Finding Jack will begin preproduction on November 17th, with the intent to release the film next Veterans Day.

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Popcorn and movie ticket image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/cinema-tickets-in-bucket-with-popcorn_2303439.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/layout”>Layout image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

I’m going to be honest, I’m not a fan of this decision for a number of reasons. Even though James Dean’s family approved of this idea, James Dean himself did not. Because he’s been gone for several decades, he has been unable to stand up for himself and give his consent. Bringing him back by using his image without his permission is not only exploitive, but also manipulative. This opportunity gives Finding Jack’s creative team the ability to use James’ image to their liking, not how James himself would have wanted. This situation kinds of reminds me of how I felt about the film, Edward, My Son. I mentioned in that review how, because of the creative team’s choice not to feature Edward on screen, it denied any actor the opportunity to receive a “standing ovation” they had probably worked hard to achieve. In the case of Finding Jack, any actor is denied a chance to add another project to their filmography because this creative team wants to capitalize on a deceased star’s popularity. The decision to bring back James is this manner is also quite cruel. Fans of James Dean are understandably upset that he passed away at such a young age. With Finding Jack’s creative team incorporating James into their film, they are giving his fans and their audience false hope, whether or not it was intentional. I’m guessing that this is a one-time decision, but fans would probably rather see him in more than one project. If fans of other decreased stars find out about this decision from Finding Jack’s creative team, they might want to see them come back in a similar fashion. Personally, I think this creative team’s intention could lead to bad results. It could also open up a can of worms that may never close again.

 

What are your thoughts on this story? How do you feel about the idea of bringing back deceased stars through technology? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

 

Here is the link to the article I referenced in this post:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/afm-james-dean-reborn-cgi-vietnam-war-action-drama-1252703

You can visit Amber’s official Twitter account by typing @amberbrainwaves into Twitter’s search bar.