Let’s start with what we know. Objectively speaking, it was a bad movie. The abundance of fart and shit jokes cemented that fact fairly quickly. The characterization was poor, the animation shoddy, and the side romance was hamfisted and clumsy. The depiction and appropriation of Incan culture (a very real thing), perpetuated several harmful, and sometimes downright ludicrous stereotypes. Think the bad guys seem familiar? Well, you’ve seen them before… in every single goddamn adventure movie produced since the invention of film. Diego, Randy and Sammy were less than underdeveloped plot devices, they were mammets, existing only to be featured in slapstick gags and to contrast the Mary-Sue figure of Dora. In short, it had the trappings of a terrible film, but there is something inexplicably poignant about it. Something strangely visionary…
This movie also begs the question, who was the target audience? A superficial examination would suggest that it was a children’s movie. After all, it was based on an animated TV show meant to teach kids basic Spanish, and the values of friendship and teamwork. Hell, it had a blue CGI monkey in it.
Upon closer inspection, however, it has some deeply adult undertones. The scenes taking place in the high school provide harrowing insight into the emotionally toxic atmosphere of the American public school system. Dora, having been raised in complete isolation, is mercilessly ridiculed for “being herself,” hinting at the Orwellian concept of loss of individuality under late stage capitalism. The beginning of the movie saw Dora occasionally pausing to break the fourth wall and ask the audience to pronounce certain words, canon with the cartoon. She was happy, optimistic and childish. Though she did retain much of that sunny disposition by the conclusion, she was clearly more sullen and jaded, her spirit dampened, as if someone were holding a strip of cloth over the strings of her soul. Suddenly, The Lost City of Gold seemed like a haunting coming-of-age story about lost innocence and the existential horrors of adulthood.
At times it even seemed to be a mockery of the TV series, like when Dora and her friends start tripping on hallucinogenic flower spores, and their psychedelically altered state is depicted in the same artistic style as the cartoon.
Swiper is a sentient, talking fox with a blue mask that runs around on its hind legs stealing shit. The catch? There is no explanation for this. Save for Dora’s drug-addled hallucination of Boots speaking to her, there are no other talking animals in this universe—and yet nobody seems even remotely surprised when this vulpine thief shows up and starts talking smack.
Strange film. Don’t bring kids, they won’t understand. I guess I can only recommend this movie to people who are tired of the modern cinema industry and are looking for an escape through a gruesome reimagining of a childhood classic.