Dora and the Lost City of Gold

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Paramount;
Family Adventure;
Box Office $60.48 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for action and some impolite humor.
Stars Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Jeff Wahlberg, Nicholas Coombe, Madeleine Madden, Temuera Morrison, Adriana Barraza, Benicio del Toro, Danny Trejo.

It would be easy to assume that a movie based on Nickelodeon’s long-running animated “Dora the Explorer” TV series might be just another sappy, dumbed-down diversion aimed at kids. But in the hands of director James Bobin, Dora and the Lost City of Gold turns out to be a charming, fun adventure that all ages can enjoy, not just fans of the TV series.

Bobin, who has already demonstrated his deft touch with similar material as director of the two most recent “Muppets” movies, and screenwriters Nicholas Stoller and Matthew Robinson bring a slightly subversive sensibility that honors the concept while poking fun at it at the same time.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The cartoon, of course, dealt with the adventures of 7-year-old Dora, her monkey sidekick, Boots, and her cousin, Diego, as they talk and sing to the audience to solve puzzles and learn new facts about the world. And the movie jumps right in with a live-action version of the “Dora” theme that sets up the movie as providing more of the same. But it turns out Dora and Diego are just imaginative youngsters who live in the South American jungle with Dora’s parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria), a pair of professors researching ancient civilizations.

After Diego moves away to Los Angeles with his parents, Dora is left to explore on her own, and the movie cuts to 10 years later, with the 16-year-old Dora (Isabela Moner) running through the jungle as if nothing has changed (though, in a bit of meta-humor, she now live-streams her adventures as a means of talking to her audience). As her parents prepare to embark on a search for a lost city, Dora is sent to live with Diego in L.A., much to her chagrin.

Having spent 10 years in the city, Diego is now a more-or-less normal kid trying to survive high school, while Dora continues to be Dora.

The movie mines Dora’s fish-out-of-water adjustments to high school for some good laughs, as she is basically the cartoon character dropped into the real world. The tone brings to mind The Brady Bunch Movie in the way the humor stems from the juxtaposition of the central characters living in their own little world for regular reality to react to.

Things take a turn, however, as Dora, Diego and some of their fellow high schoolers are kidnapped by mercenaries who want to find the same city of gold that Dora’s parents are seeking, putting Dora back in her element and turning the tables on the students who were making fun of her for survivalist skills.

The kids quickly escape into the jungle and set off to find the legendary city and Dora’s parents on their own, pursued by the bad guys, who are aided by Swiper the Fox, lest any of his fans worry he would be left out of the action.

From here the film takes on the vibe of a junior “Indiana Jones” adventure, while also taking some cues from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, in terms of putting the ensemble into unusual situations.

In addition to the opening sequence, the film’s most direct nod to the cartoon version comes in the form of a clever sequence in which the characters are exposed to jungle spores that make them hallucinate an animated world. The making of this playful scene is the subject of a four-minute featurette on the Blu-ray.

The behind-the-scenes material is pretty standard as far as these things go, with plenty of interviews from the cast and filmmakers. The nine-minute “All About Dora” features the talented Moner offering her insights on playing the character as a teenager. “Can You Say Pelicula?” is a four-and-a-half-minute examination of some of the stunts as well as the comedic sensibilities of Eugenio Derbez. A four-minute “Dora’s Jungle House” video offers a lot of details about Dora’s parents’ house that aren’t readily apparent from the movie.

The latter should please fans looking to live in this world a bit more, as will more than 13 minutes of deleted scenes, extended sequences and alternate takes.

The Blu-ray also includes an amusing two-minute blooper reel.

Ant-Man and The Wasp

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 10/16/18;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $216.42 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for for some sci-fi action violence.
Stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas.

The 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe arrived in a somewhat awkward position for the franchise. Coming off the dire circumstances of Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp offers more of the lighthearted, fun romp first served up in 2015’s Ant-Man. It’s certainly a shift in tone for dedicated Marvel watchers, but also serves as a satisfactory palate cleanser for the despair that “Avengers” movie dished out.

Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man wasn’t in Infinity War, and this movie delves into what he was up to as Thanos was preparing to battle the rest of the Avengers. Under house arrest as a result of the events of Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang (Rudd) is once again recruited by the father-daughter science whiz team of Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly), who are now fugitives because Lang used their shrinking technology to help Captain America fight Iron Man.

Hank needs Scott’s help to locate his wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) in the quantum realm, where she vanished 30 years ago after going too microscopic to return. Hope, meanwhile, has become The Wasp, fulfilling the setup from the first film for her to don a shrinking suit of her own.

However, their efforts have attracted some unwanted attention in the form of a criminal (Walton Goggins) who wants to get his hands on their technology, and a girl (Hannah John-Kamen) who needs energy from the quantum realm to reverse the effects of an accident that is causing her to phase out of existence.

Scott, meanwhile, has to avoid getting caught by the authorities by making sure he’s back home before they stop by for an inspection, lest he be sent back to prison for 20 years.

Director Peyton Reed takes advantage of the size-shifting premise to present both some very funny gags and some inventive action sequences. Reed says in an introduction to the film and his feature-length commentary that one of his main goals on the sequel was to really take advantage of the different perspectives that shrinking and growing can offer, much more than he did in the first film.

The film also sets up how Rudd will make his way into the fourth “Avengers” film, leaving even more clues with which fans can speculate about how the whole Thanos saga will be resolved next year.

For the here and now, though, the Ant-Man and The Wasp Blu-ray includes more than 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes with some good insights about establishing the characters in this new story, plus how the production design team mixed practical and CG effects to create sets and sequences that immerse the viewer into a world where the scale of everyday items is often out of whack.

The Blu-ray also includes two deleted scenes running about a minute each, which are interesting on their own but weren’t essential to the overall story. Then there are about four minutes of gag reels, including a minute of Stan Lee’s outtakes trying different lines for his cameo.

The digital editions include an exclusive eight-minute retrospective on the concept artists of the now 10-year-old MCU, plus a minute-long commercial for a company at the center of one of the film’s key running gags. Vudu also offers a two-and-a-half-minute featurette about Reed.