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– by Fox Troilo

Dora the Explorer is the story of Dora (Isabela Moner), a young teenager teeming with unbridled enthusiasm and optimism and yearning for adventure. From a young age, Dora lived in the jungle with her explorer/professor parents. When her mom and dad finally think they’ve discovered the resting place of a temple that has consistently eluded them, Dora is sent to the city to try out high school for a while so they can go investigate. However, when Dora’s parents go missing, she embarks on a quest to save them while accidentally dragging along some fellow students.

What works in Dora the Explorer is its light-hearted self-aware nature. Director James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) does a rather remarkable job of adapting the original cartoon while at the same time aging it to allow for slightly more plausibility within a live-action setting. Putting an 8-year old girl and her monkey friend in peril probably would have been slightly off-putting, but by fast-forwarding a few years while letting the character retain child-like naivety works surprisingly well. There also some really funny nods to the cartoon including having Dora break the fourth wall to ask if audiences can say certain words, which befuddles the other people in the scene.

RELATED: The New Dora Pokes Fun At The Original Series

Dora the Explorer at its heart was an educational show with an aura of silly comedy, and the film embodies this as well. There are some good lessons about family, loyalty, being true to one’s self, and friendship. Furthermore, there’s enough slapstick humor to keep the youngest watchers giggling and plenty of adventure to engage older kids as well. And clearly knowing the breadth of the probable audiences, writers Matthew Robinson and Nicholas Stoller wisely include a few inside jokes clearly meant just for the parents.

While Dora the Explorer falls squarely into the market of a “family film,” this is the rare concoction that actually works best for a group across an age range, rather then singling out a particular demographic. Kids who are too young won’t get all of the humor or connect with the growing pains of the main characters while older patrons may feel that they’ve outgrown such “childish” material. But in the end Dora the Explorer performs a balancing act—the movie the everyone can agree on and like, rather than being the movie that some will love.

Dora the Explorer is a delightful movie bolstered by clever writing and a sincere intent to appeal to a wide audience. Even for those they have never seen a single one of Dora’s animated adventures, there’s something here to charm you.

Recommended if you enjoyed: Spy Kids, 3 Ninjas

FINAL GRADE: A-

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Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.