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"Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure": Seasonal Lessons, Sweetly Told

You know, I have to admit it: Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure is actually pretty good.

Dora's Christmas Carol AdventureNow, before you accuse me of going all soft and gooey on account the Christmas theme, I’ll just thank you to click over and read this little notice; does that sound like the work of a man ready to roll over when some googly-eyed moppet burbles “God bless us, every one”? I think not!

Also, when I say Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure is pretty good, I mean that it’s pretty good for what it is. The show can’t abandon its “ask a question and look at the camera” schtick even for one holiday special, so I’d still encourage wiseacres everywhere to give it a pass. But it’s not nearly as insufferable as it might have been, and even manages a few charming and surprising moments.

The story, of course, borrows its structure from Dickens’s classic tale. Cynics might hope that Dora herself takes the Scrooge role. (“Where can we put people who have no money?” [Stares into camera.] “That’s right! The work houses!”) But it’s actually Swiper the Fox who takes the part. His thieving antics have got him on Santa’s “naughty” list, and unless he proves he has mended his ways he will never again receive any presents. With the help of some magic cloaks, he and Dora go back into the past and then into the future for some Dickensian sequences that will cause Swiper to have a change of heart.

Parents need not worry that “Dickensian” means anything as grim as Scrooge suffers in the original book—there are no open graves or crippled children lurching around on crutches. But Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure has calmer moments that get the same sort of thing across. In the past, Swiper is distressed at the sadness his baby self causes the other children when he steals their things; in the future, Swiper sits by his fireside, alone and unloved but surrounded by piles of presents that he has stolen from others. And Dora actually goes one better than the original Dickens, with a final twist that deftly nails down the moral that it is better to give than to receive.

Dora's Christmas Carol AdventureThis being a Dora extrrrrrravaganza, it naturally has some songs. The opening song deftly weaves the usual Dora theme into more seasonal medleys and sets a happy mood for what follows. Other music is less memorable, but works well enough. The single, extended-episode release comes with five minutes of special features: two one-minute music videos (for “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”) and a three-minute behind-the-scenes look at that opening theme song.

Children who already love Dora will undoubtedly adore this Christmas special, and parents will find that it imparts some lessons that go above and beyond what the show typically hands out. For that class of viewers, I would recommend it. Others should stick to Peanuts.

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