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Movie review: In 'Lost City of Gold', Dora the Explorer travels to a new land — high school

“DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD” — 2 stars — Isabela Moner, Madelyn Miranda, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Benicio del Toro; PG (for action and some impolite humor); in general release; running time: 102 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Some movies create their own worlds, and others just remind you of films you’d rather be watching. "Dora and the Lost City of Gold" falls into that latter category.

Based on the popular animated TV series “Dora the Explorer,” James Bobin’s “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” follows the adventures of an intrepid teenage explorer in search of a legendary city in South America.

Dora (Isabela Moner) is anything but your average kid. She’s been raised in the jungle by her archaeologist parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Pena) and aspires to be just like them one day. She adores the wonders of the raw and dangerous world around her, but after one risky misadventure, Mom and Dad decide she could use a little taste of civilization and send Dora to stay with family in Los Angeles.

Eva Longoria, left, Isabela Moner and Michael Peña star in Paramount Pictures' "Dora and the Lost City of Gold."
Eva Longoria, left, Isabela Moner and Michael Peña star in Paramount Pictures' "Dora and the Lost City of Gold."
Vince Valitutti

The timing couldn’t be worse for 16-year-old Dora. Her parents have finally hit on a lead to find the lost city of Parapata, which is rumored to be made of gold. But instead of join her parents on the biggest expedition of their careers, Dora gets sent to high school, where she is surrounded by the urban jungle of adolescence.

Dora’s wide-eyed giddiness and survival skills may have worked in the jungle, but in high school they are a liability. The school’s resident overachieving know-it-all Sammy (Madeleine Madden) immediately feels threatened, and Dora’s cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) is just plain embarrassed by her awkward behavior.

Shoes start changing feet, though, when Dora and three of her classmates get kidnapped from a school outing by a group of treasure hunters who think she is the key to finding Parapata. Before they know it, the kids are in Peru, and after a helpful rescue from a family friend named Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), the teen team sets out to find Mom and Dad before the bad guys can catch up.

The concept of translating Dora’s perky TV character into live action leads to a number of winking nods to fans, such as a running gag about Dora addressing an invisible camera to the confusion of everyone around her and making up silly songs about everyday tasks (though in this case, the task is pooping). There are some moments that fans will get a kick out of, but overall the style seems to hamstring “Lost City of Gold” as much as it helps it.

"Dora and the Lost City of Gold."
"Dora and the Lost City of Gold."
Nickelodeon Movies

One scene in particular suggests that “Lost City of Gold” should have been produced in its original animated form, and a pair of poorly rendered CGI characters just underscore the point. The story is serviceable enough, but it gets undercut by the kind of dialogue and performances that make it feel more appropriate for a kids’ TV network than a feature film.

“Lost City of Gold” has a few things going for it (it’s always fun to see Michael Pena), but even when it reminds you of other similar films — at different points “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” “The Goonies,” and the "Indiana Jones" series come to mind — it leaves you wishing you were watching those other films instead.

Overall, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” might get a few laughs — and a few laughs of recognition — but it shouldn’t be on your “great for the whole family” list.

Rating explained: “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is rated PG for scenes of peril and mild violence and some rude humor.