Dora and the Lost City of Gold review

For inSing

DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD

Director: James Bobin
Cast : Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, Madeleine Madden, Temuera Morrison, Q’orianka Kilcher, Benicio del
Genre : Adventure/Comedy
Run Time : 1 h 42 mins
Opens : 29 August 2019
Rating : PG

           Dora, the beloved bilingual icon of preschool television, makes the leap to the big screen in her first live-action adventure.

Dora (Isabela Moner and Madelyn Miranda at different ages) has spent all her life in the jungle with her researcher parents Cole (Michael Peña) and Elena (Eva Longoria), and her monkey friend Boots. Dora’s cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg and Malachi Barton at different ages) left for the city when he was seven, while Dora continued to stay in the jungle.

Now 16, Dora makes the big move to L.A. to join Diego. Having never been exposed to the typical teenage existence, Dora sticks out at school and causes Diego much embarrassment. During a field trip, Dora, Diego and their classmates Sammy (Madeline Madden) and Randy (Nicholas Coombe) are kidnapped. A gang of mercenaries including Powell (Temuera Morrison) and the fox Swiper (Benicio del Toro) are after Dora’s parents, believing they have found the lost Incan city of Parapata. The four meet Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), a professor who knows Dora’s parents. Drawing on her childhood in the jungle, Dora must protect her friends and stop the villains from plundering the mythical city.

An adaptation of Dora the Explorer is a tricky thing to get right: naturally, many elements from the animated series aimed at two to five-year-olds do not translate well into live-action. Dora and the Lost City of Gold is smarter than it seems, and not just because there are self-reflexive jokes about Dora breaking the fourth wall. Working from a screenplay by Nicholas Stoller and Matthew Robinson, director James Bobin plays with familiar aspects of the TV show and has made a film that is in part about growing up.

Sure, this is ostensibly an adventure movie and has many of the traditional trappings associated with the genre, but at its heart, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is about growing up and adjusting to different circumstances. Dora is a fish out of water, mocked by everyone and unable to fit in at high school. She struggles with being responsible for the survival of others, but through everything, is resolutely optimistic and knows the best thing she can be is herself.

Dora is earnest and positive to a fault, but the film celebrates the character for it. Isabela Moner plays the upbeat Dora with a vibrant can-do energy, but also shades the character in and gives her more dimensions than the deliberately simplistic characterisation of Dora in the TV show did. Moner is a Dora fan, having dressed up as her for Halloween. It’s clear that Moner is having great fun inhabiting this character, and while the film places Dora in a new context, it never loses the essence of who she is and why she’s been such a beloved character.

The dynamic between Dora and Diego is an interesting one with shades of sadness to it, because they used to be close as young children but have drifted apart since Diego moved away. Diego still loves his cousin, but Dora can’t understand why Diego is now embarrassed by her. Over the course of the adventure, they repair their relationship; this is done surprisingly well.

The adult supporting cast have lots of fun, especially Michael Peña as Dora’s father. Eugenio Derbez does his typical goofy schtick but puts a bit of a spin on it as the movie progresses.

Like many family films, Dora and the Lost City of Gold sometimes has trouble calibrating how much of it should be aimed at kids and how much should cater to the accompanying adults. There are a few metafictional jokes and the movie even manages to sneak in a trippy hallucinatory sequence. There is some very juvenile bodily function humour, but perhaps that’s balanced with the film’s comments on the colonisation of Central and South America.

The scenes in which Dora and company solve puzzles and escape lethal traps are reminiscent of Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones. Some of the set pieces feel a little theme park-ish or like something out of Legends of the Hidden Temple – Moner starred in a TV movie based on that gameshow. This movie sometimes trips up on how cartoony to make things, especially when it comes to Boots and Swiper, who are not especially convincing CGI characters.

The musical score by John Debney and Germaine Franco is reminiscent of John Williams while incorporating indigenous Peruvian musical instruments and vocals. Beyond the music, Quechua, the language of the Incas, features in the movie. There is a greater respectfulness of indigenous culture which isn’t often seen in adventure movies, where ancient treasures are just something the good guys and bad guys fight over.

          Dora and the Lost City of Gold is mostly funny and good-natured; it’s charming because it’s uncynical. There are certain aspects of the film that come off as clumsy because of the gulf between the source material and what the filmmakers are going for, but most of it works. With Moner’s unerringly cheery performance at its centre, the Dora movie is an enjoyably silly family film.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Alice Through the Looking Glass

For F*** Magazine

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Director : James Bobin
Cast : Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Timothy Spall, Barbara Windsor, Paul Whitehouse, Matt Vogel
Genre : Adventure/Fantasy
Run Time : 1 hr 53 mins
Opens : 6 July 2016
Rating : PG

Alice Through the Looking Glass posterUnderland beckons Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) once more in this sequel to the 2010 fantasy adventure. After spending the last three years on the high seas as the captain of her father’s ship the Wonderland, Alice returns to the magical realm she has visited twice before. Absolem (Rickman) the butterfly leads her through the Looking Glass, whereupon Alice is reunited with her friends Mirana the White Queen (Hathaway), the Cheshire cat (Fry), Nivens McTwisp the White Rabbit (Sheen), Bayard the Bloodhound (Spall), Mallykun the Dormouse (Windsor) and Thackery Earwicket the March Hare (Whitehouse). They inform her that Tarrant Hightopp the Mad Hatter (Depp) is ill, and the White Queen convinces Alice to journey through time in search of the Hatter’s family, long presumed killed. Alice comes face to face with Time (Baron Cohen), who controls all time in Underland with a device known as the Chronosphere. To save the Hatter, Alice defies Time himself in an odyssey that will upend all of Underland.
Alice Through the Looking Glass Anne Hathaway, Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska

2010’s Alice in Wonderlandgrossed over $1 billion worldwide, and that seems like just about the only reason Alice Through the Looking Glass was made. With the first film, director Tim Burton delivered an Underland that was stuffed with eye candy but a plot that bore little resemblance to the irrepressible anarchic surrealism that fuelled Lewis Carroll’s stories. Burton is replaced in the director’s chair by James Bobin, who inherits and competently carries forth the first film’s visual style, but who does not steer the material any closer to the spirit of the source.

Alice Through the Looking Glass Mia Wasikowska, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Cheshire Cat, Bloodhound and Anne Hathaway

Linda Woolverton, who also wrote this film’s predecessor, has bolted a time travel story onto the world and characters of Alice in Wonderland, and not a particularly inspired one at that. By having Alice meet younger versions of the Mad Hatter and the White and Red Queens amongst others, this functions as a prequel without strictly being one. This approach whittles away at whatever charm and mystique the characters possessed in the 2010 film, and the backstories are distinctly underwhelming. The Mad Hatter has daddy issues and the Red and White Queen have a bog-standard petty sibling rivalry, hardly the stuff of euphoric whimsy.

Alice Through the Looking Glass Mia Wasikowska and chessmen

Granted, it is pretty to look at. Time’s domain, a cavernous Gothic cathedral is suitably foreboding and the action set pieces are intermittently entertaining. Costume designer Colleen Atwood’s creations are intricate and delightful, with Alice spending the bulk of the film in a kaleidoscopic dress inspired by Chinese imperial costumes. The way the Hatter’s makeup subtly morphs depending on his mood was a fun idea from the first film that works just as well here. The Red Queen’s servants draw inspiration from the paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, famous for his creations of humanoid figures comprised of fruits and vegetables. The visual splendour just doesn’t quite make up for the film’s narrative shortcomings.

Alice Through the Looking Glass Helena Bonham Carter

The bulk of the cast from the first film are back, but most of the characters seem to be here just for the sake of it. Yes, there’s some joy to be derived from seeing Alice reunited with her other-worldly pals, but the character interactions come off as largely perfunctory. Wasikowska’s Alice is meant to be plucky and spirited, but she’s difficult to buy as an action heroine – never mind that turning Alice into an action heroine still reeks of boardroom mandate. Many of the crises that arise in this film seem to be the direct result of Alice making silly mistakes, and there’s the sense that she should know better since this isn’t her first Underland rodeo.

Alice Through the Looking Glass Sacha Baron Cohen

Baron Cohen plays Time with an air of moustache-twirling villainy layered atop his usual goofiness – except the character really isn’t written as that bad a guy. The question of whether or not time can be considered an abstract concept has led to much chin-scratching amongst philosophers through the ages. Having the personification of time as a fantasy film antagonist is a fine idea, and the German accent Baron Cohen affects brings precision engineering to mind. Alas, it’s hard to shake the feeling that most of the character’s potential remains untapped.

Alice Through the Looking Glass Johnny Depp

The rest of the characters are much as we remember them. Johnny Depp’s just being Johnny Depp – not much more to say than that. The wild abandon with which Bonham Carter essayed the Red Queen’s petulance and sadism was a highlight of the 2010 film and here, the attempt to give the character a degree of sympathy seems like a massive miscalculation. The mellifluous voices of Fry, Spall and the late Rickman are a welcome aural treat to supplement all that eye candy. The Hatter’s family, in particular his father Zanik (Ifans), are meant to be the linchpins of the plot, but have minimal screen time and make little impact. Andrew Scott, Sherlock’s Moriarty, is also criminally wasted in a throwaway role as a sinister psychiatrist.

Alice Through the Looking Glass Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp in town square

Unlike a large number of critics, this reviewer did not find Alice Through the Looking Glass to be an unmitigated disaster. Despite its wrongheaded approach and lacklustre plot, it still manages to be entertaining and attention-grabbing. While the design work might be too gaudy for some, it’s still lavish and immersive. Still, it’s disappointing that this film repeats its predecessor’s mistake of attempting to squeeze Lewis Carroll’s bizarre and iconic creations into a tent-pole blockbuster mould.

Alice Through the Looking Glass Mia Wasikowska and Absolem the butterfly

Summary:Back to the Future did it better” isn’t quite what we should be saying after an Alice in Wonderland movie.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars