Nickelodeon // 2010 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // August 16th, 2010
Backpack, backpack. Yeah!
Dora the Explorer premiered on Nickelodeon in 2000 (yes, it's been around for a decade now). It's essentially a rip-off of Blue's Clues, aping that show's focus on mildly interactive entertainment and age-appropriate puzzle solving for the preschool set. Dora's particular raison d'etre is teaching tykes Spanish almost by osmosis, slipping contextualized Spanish words into each of Dora's adventures. In each episode of the series, Dora and her friends -- Backpack, Boots the Monkey, Benny the Bull, and Isa the Iguana -- solve a problem by navigating to three places outlined by the talking and singing (and deeply annoying) Map. At each location, Dora and her pals sing a brief song and solve a problem involving colors or shapes or other rudimentary concepts that preschoolers can grasp. The closest the show comes to conflict is with the inevitable arrival of Swiper the Fox during each episode's climax. Swiper tries to steal whatever prize Dora has been seeking. Luckily, the masked canidae can be defeated if viewers say, "No swiping, Swiper!"
Dora the Explorer: Dora's Big Birthday Adventure contains three birthday-themed episodes of the show:
* "Dora's Big Birthday Adventure"
In this double-length episode, Dora and Boots must return from Wizzle World to their home in the rainforest in time for Dora's big birthday party. The only way out is for the wishing Wizzle to wish Dora and Boots home, but he can't make any wishes because he's lost his wishing crystal. Dora must return the crystal to the Wizzle, while avoiding the wrath of the wish-hating La Bruja and her winged monkeys. Dora's adventure will take her across Sea Snake Lake, through the Dancing Forest, and over the rainbow to Wizzle Mountain. As if this episode didn't already approach Ralph Bakshi levels of weirdness, young kids will learn that bruja is the Spanish word for "witch."
* "Dora Helps the Birthday Wizzle"
Dora comes into possession of a birthday wish wand owned by a Wizzle. If she doesn't return it before the candles on the Wizzle's birthday cake burn out, the Wizzle will lose his birthday wish. To return the wish, she and Boots must jump into Wizzle World, go through the unicorn forest, past the dinosaur caves, to Wizzle Mountain, handing out wishes along the way. During the course of this 23 minutes of riveting entertainment, tykes learn that felize cumpleaños is Spanish for "happy birthday."
* "Wizzle Wishes"
Dora and Boots help a Wizzle retrieve his three lost birthday wishes so he can use one of them to return to his mommy and daddy. To regain the wishes, Dora must travel past the flowery garden and through the nutty forest to the wishing well. Young viewers learn the term cuidado in order to warn Tico the squirrel about falling nuts.
Geared as it is towards very young viewers, Dora the Explorer is repetitive -- really, really, really repetitive. This three-episode set goes above-and-beyond in terms of predictability, though, considering "Dora Helps the Birthday Wizzle" and "Wizzle Wishes" are essentially identical, not only in terms of structure but also in terms of story. The only notable difference between two episodes is that one has unicorns and dinosaurs, while the other features a squirrel getting bonked on the head with acorns. "Dora's Big Birthday Adventure" is a ham-fisted homage to The Wizard of Oz. Though twice the length of a normal episode, it's structurally identical to every other episode but padded with longer, more elaborate musical numbers. As episodes of Dora the Explorer go, it's a pretty solid piece of work. Look, I could go on and on about how Map's high-pitched voice makes me want jab a pencil in my own neck, or how large enough quantities of Backpack's grating song might make me seriously consider a heroin addiction for sweet relief, but my ramblings are pretty much pointless: If you have young children who love Dora the Explorer, they'll love Dora's Big Birthday Adventure. It is what it is: 95 solid minutes of preschool entertainment. If, like me, you've diligently steered your kids away from Dora as a means of protecting your own sanity, this collection of episodes will do nothing to convince you that the show was conceived by anyone other than Satan himself in a dastardly scheme to punish all adult humans foolish enough to procreate.
The DVD presentation is full frame, in keeping with the show's broadcast presentation. The transfer is softer than what I'm used to seeing from television animation, but that's probably a problem with the episodes, not the DVD -- the image looks exactly like what you see when you tune into the show on Nickelodeon. The stereo audio presentation is, again, no better or worse than the broadcast editions of the series.
The only onboard special feature is "Dora's Birthday Adventure Game," in which players use the arrow buttons on their DVD player's remote control to fine everyone Dora met in Wizzle World, including the Wishing Wizzle. The disc's keepcase is housed in a cardboard slipcover that includes a fold-out pop-up of Dora and Boots celebrating Dora's birthday with her family. Also included inside the keepcase is a sheet of birthday-themed stickers.
Dora's Big Birthday Adventure offers up over an hour and a half of typical Dora the Explorer adventuring. Make of that statement what you will.
Review content copyright © 2010 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interactive Game