School holiday movies – movie reviews

School holidays have arrived around Australia – and that means lots of kids saying “I’m bored!”. Kid-friendly movies make a great outing though, and with that in mind, here are our quick reviews of three. They all opened on 19 September 2019.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold (PG)

The cartoon TV series Dora the Explorer (which was squarely aimed at pre-schoolers) gets a teen makeover in Dora and the Lost City of Gold. Director James Bobin transforms the cutesy tot into a 16 year-old adventurer and, in the process, gives us one of the most gloriously bonkers films of the year.

The plot is fairly complicated, but it involves Dora (Isabela Moner) being sent from the Peruvian jungle to go to school in Los Angeles. Teen troubles ensue. Then a twist of fate sees Dora, her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and classmates Sammy (Madeleine Madden) and Randy (Nicholas Coombe) dumped back in the jungle. They have to find Dora’s parents (Michael Pena and Eva Longoria) who’ve disappeared. Oh, and maybe also uncover the location of a famed golden city built by the Incas.

The result is a manic romp with bumbling villains, talking CGI animals, hallucinogenic plants and Indiana Jones-style jungle puzzles. It’s a kaleidoscope of colourful but bizarre action. And as a bonus, it was filmed mostly in Australia. This will probably appeal to tweens and early teens more than little ones. Still, Dora and the Lost City of Gold is definitely worth a look. (David Edwards)

Ugly Dolls (PG)

A colourful, pop-infused children’s animation with strong messaging, Ugly Dolls turns outcasts into heroes. The film explores the idea of individuality as a virtue using soft toys as the vehicle.

Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) is an “ugly” doll who isn’t going to let anything deter her from pursuing her dreams. Her best pal is UglyDog (Pitbull). Ox (Blake Shelton) is the town’s unofficial “mayor,” as well as its father figure. He always wants the UglyDolls to feel nurtured and safe. Lucky Bat (Leehom Wang) is the wisest doll in town but his advice doesn’t always work out as he planned. Wage (Wanda Sykes) is a cynic and voice of reason who likes to play it safe. And then there’s Babo (Gabriel Iglesias), the “muscle” of the group, whose infectious positivity makes him the guy you want on any road trip.

Ugly Dolls mixes fun, music and adventure, with unique characters and worlds. It extols acceptance, diversity, empowerment, joy and friendship. Wholesome indeed. Ugly Dolls knows its audience and plays cutely to it. (Alex First)

Abominable (G)

Abominable is a charming animated fantasy about the importance of home and family.

When teenage Yi (Chloe Bennet) encounters a young yeti on the roof of her apartment building, she’s taken aback. But she quickly realises that the yeti isn’t a scary ogre that he at first appears to be. In fact, he has escaped captivity where he was being held for research purposes. Yi and her friends, Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai), name him “Everest” (Joseph Izzo) and embark on an epic quest to reunite the delightful creature with his family at the highest point on Earth. But the trio of friends will have to stay one-step ahead of a cunning zoologist Dr Zara (Sarah Paulson) and the mission’s financier, Burnish (Eddie Izzard). The wealthy Burnish has been intent on capturing a yeti ever since he encountered one as an adventurer many decades ago; while Dr Zara’s motives may not be all that pure.

Written and directed by Jill Culton (Monsters, Inc.), the themes of togetherness, playfulness and fun will resonate with children and adults alike. I also liked the adventurous spirit that underpinned what became quite a remarkable road trip. In fact, if you can picture this, it became somewhat of an imaginary tourism showpiece … in animated form, of course. (Alex First)

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