There are some film adaptations that are a challenge for me to get excited about. “Angry Birds”? I never played the game, so I don’t really understand the movies. I was just a little too old for the Twilight books, so even though I saw the Twilight movies, I wasn’t as obsessed as the 12-year-olds in the theater with me. And, I’m not a huge fan of the Transformers franchise, because I didn’t ever really play with the robots in disguise when I was a kid. 

So when I saw that a live-action movie based on “Dora the Explorer” – the long-running Nickelodeon children’s show – was arriving in theaters, I didn’t give it much thought. I know some of the basics about the source material (Dora has a pet monkey named Boots, there is something about “no swiping” and she’s got a magic talking backpack) but after that I’m in the dark. And, to be honest, I poked a little fun at the movie – there was no way it could be good, right? 

Shockingly, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is a clever, self-aware and a wonderful story of a brave, determined young girl with brains, wit and a kind soul who embarks on a deeply entertaining adventure. I entered the theater cynical and skeptical, and I left it with a smile on my face and a real appreciation that the filmmakers played homage to the original content (from what I could tell) while also breathing joyful life into this new version of the young and infectiously friendly Dora. 

Dora is raised in the rainforest by her scientist parents, and we meet her as a young teenager, as she’s being sent to the wilds of Los Angeles to go to high school with her cousin Diego. Meanwhile, her parents have embarked on the hunt for Parapata, the lost city of gold. When they get into trouble, Dora (with Boots the monkey in tow!) comes to their rescue. 

From the lockers of Los Angeles to the deepest jungles, Dora, played by the truly spectacular young actress Isabela Moner, is just too delightful not to love – she’s quirky, cheerful and innocent. The supporting cast is just as plucky and peppy, and the film balances the more serious elements (the jungle is dangerous, after all) with the sweet and the silly. If only all adaptations of books, video games, children’s toys and television shows were this charming!

Dora and the Lost City of Gold  (1 hr, 47 min) rated PG. Playing at the Iowa Theater Thursday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 8 at 2 p.m.

Visit for full schedule and details.