Bad movies tend to have no focus. Watch a bad movie like “The Spy Who Dumped Me” and none of the characters have reacted problems (or any problems at all). Then watch a good movie and you’ll notice that the hero has one problem and the supporting characters have similar problems.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is based on the Nickelodeon cartoon that features a little girl teaching people how to speak English and Spanish while exploring the world. Despite being based on a cartoon, the movie clearly zeros in on a main problem for the hero, Dora.
Dora grows up in the jungle with her parents and is happy being alone. Then when her parents set off to search for an ancient city of gold, they send her to her cousin’s place to live in Los Angeles where she discovers she’s completely alone in the foreign world of America. So Dora’s problem is that she’s always alone no matter where she goes.
Her cousin was once a great friend of hers but after ten years, he’s grown distant from her. Dora also meets a kid who’s always alone because other kids pick on him. Finally, Dora meets a smart girl who’s also alone because she’s far smarter than anyone else. The common theme all of these supporting characters have is that they’re alone in separate ways.
Although the movie is a playful mockup of an Indiana Jones movie, it also stays focused on Dora feeling alone and slowly gaining the respect and trust of the people around her. In the process, those people also slowly gain trust from others so by the end of the tory, none of them feel alone any more.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is less about exploring lost worlds and more about Dora and her friends finding friendship. The physical plot is secondary to the emotional plot because the emotional story is always far more important.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” playfully mocks the Dora cartoon while also staying focused on teaching Dora that she doesn’t have to be alone any more. That message also reverberates for the audience because they can see how Dora finds friends over time.
The key to any good movie is a laser-like focus on solving a single emotional problem. In “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” that problem is feeling alone. Once the screenwriters of “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” found this focus, they easily created the rest of the story to revolve around this single idea, and highlighting this single idea is the hallmark of a good movie.