Rio – Review


Harmless fun, but more an animated post card for Brazil than movie

Rio is about a bird traveling from Minnesota to Brazil to have sex. If someone were to say this to a parent waiting in line to buy a ticket for her and the rugrat(s) she has in tow, she would be appalled and possibly deliver a slap across the face. But the person who told a parent this would be right: Rio is about sex, but it’s safely sidestepped in having it be about two birds continuing the species because they are the last two in existence.

Rio is vibrant and full of life, and captures the music and energy of Rio De Janiero. As splashy as it as – from an aerial view you can see waves crashing along the shoreline – this bird-out-of-tree comedy feels more like a travelogue, getting people to go to Rio, than a budding romance between two blue macaws.

The plot centers on Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), a macaw that’s been domesticated ever since he was birdnapped by smugglers in Brazil and shipped to the States. Ending up in Minnesota by accident, Linda (Leslie Mann), a freckle-faced little girl, rescues him. The two have remained inseparable.  Having never learned to fly, Blu makes up for it with other acquired skills, like making toast, brushing his teeth, and sounding like a car alarm so that Linda wakes up on time. Blu also shows that he’s no birdbrain by spending his days reading.

Everything changes when Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), a Brazilian ornithologist, comes to Minnesota to tell Linda that Blu is the last remaining male in his species. A similar female macaw resides in Rio, and Tulio wants Linda and Blu to accompany him to Brazil so the species can be repopulated.

That’s the setup. When they get to Rio, Blu once again finds himself birdnapped by smugglers only this time he has company. Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the female macaw, and Blu are cuffed together. The two have dissimilar views on what it means to be free – Jewel prefers the openness of the wild, while Blu is content with a more domesticated life. Both desire escape, but Blu’s inability to fly proves problematic.

Rio is fairly predictable in how the story develops; each new situation or reveal doesn’t as much as build on the preceding action as it just piles on with little breathing room. And what breathing space there is usually involves choreography or a catchy tune to get you in the spirit of Carnival, the yearly festival that Brazilians refer to as the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

We get introduced to various characters along the way, like an evil cockatoo (a very cheeky Jemaine Clement channeling Boris Karloff’s Grinch), who works for the smugglers, and Jamie Foxx are a cardinal and canary pair whose comic relief conjures up memories of Timone and Pumba from The Lion King. They even have a moment where they break out in song, but neither matches Clement’s tune “Pretty Bird.”

Rio offers plenty of frenetic action sequences to keep the attention spans of five to eight year olds. And that’s part of the problem. It tries too hard to be appealing. Rio‘s creators, Blue Sky Studios, the animation firm behind the successful Ice Age franchise (its last release, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, made close to a billion worldwide!), doesn’t know when to say when. It’s to a point where the animators are doubling over each other trying to ensure that they keep you entertained at all times. It’s not enough just to have your attention; you have to be kept amused.

Parents should be grateful that the comedy abstains from using potty humor to elicit laughter. Plus, this is a family film where the humor isn’t “too adult,” as was the case with last month’s Rango. Only the occasional play on words.

The sights and sounds of Rio will no doubt delight children, but not all adults will have the same experience. The story and humor are handled with kid gloves worn by adults who are lacking in the area of making jokes that will fly over the heads of young’uns and be appreciated by older theatergoers. At the very least they could have thrown in Duran Duran’s “Rio” for a nostalgic punch line. Instead we get Lionel Richie. Sadly, Rio won’t have you dancing on the ceiling afterward.

Director: Carlos Saldanha
Notable Cast: Voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway,, Leslie Mann, Jemaine Clement, Jamie Foxx
Writer(s): Don Rhymer, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia

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