Director: Carlos Saldanha
Cast: The voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, George Lopez, Rodrigo Santoro, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, Jemaine Clement, Jake T. Austin, Carlos Ponce, Tracy Morgan
Running Time: 1:36
Release Date: 4/15/11
Review by Mark Dujsik | April 14, 2011
How pretty and pretty inconsequential Rio is. Set against a luscious and photorealistic computer-generated approximation of the capital of Brazil, the movie is wholly inoffensive, especially in the grander scheme of kid's movies aiming for the lowest common denominator of humor. Here, the only poop joke involves the cockatoo villain, who sings of surprising humans with his fecal matter and blaming it on nearby seagulls. The line, taken into consideration, is funnier than it sounds, as it comes with a melodic break in the tune and, well, hearing a bird sing about such a minor bit of dastardly do is admittedly pretty amusing.
Rio is kind of a musical, though the songs seem inserted as an afterthought, simply so the audience can have the discussion of it as a sort of musical. They aren't necessary or, at times, even organic to the plot or establishing the characters. Apart from that one number, really, the sporadic music in the movie is mostly background—to the lively dance of nature in the jungle, to the romantic leads sharing a potentially tender moment, to a dance party with auto-tuned birds providing the beat.
That's part of the movie's slow, subtle decline. At the start, it's a charmer, and after a certain point, we begin to realize that Don Rhymer's screenplay (from a story by director Carlos Saldanha) doesn't have the courage to do much more than try to breeze by on its charm.
In the jungle of Brazil, a group of birds sing and dance-through-flight about how marvelous the jungle is, until they're all snatched by smugglers. From the back of a truck, driving through a sleepy, snowy Minnesota town, one crate tumbles off. Inside, a young girl discovers a blue macaw. They grow up together as best friends (Her prom date is none too happy to be pushed off to the side during the photo), and now Linda (voice of Leslie Mann), with the help of her best bird Blu (voice of Jesse Eisenberg), runs a local book store.
Blu is a spoiled pet (He prefers the term "companion"), who sits back in his cage reading Popular Mechanics and does everything with his owner, including brushing their teeth—or his beak. His domestication becomes a problem when an ornithologist from Rio de Janeiro named Tulio (voice of Rodrigo Santoro) arrives with some shocking news: Blu is one of the two last surviving members of his species.
On the plus side, Tulio's wildlife clinic has found the other, and it's a female. So it's off from the cold to the tropical climate, where Blu is yet again a fish out of water after adapting to his previous lifestyle. The other macaw Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway) is more concerned with escaping from her newfound captivity than repopulating the species, and when a trio of smugglers (voices of Carlos Ponce, Jeff Garcia, and Davi Vieira) steals the pair to sell them on the black market, they and a gathering of comrades must work together for freedom.
With such an undemanding plot, it's the cadre of characters by which the movie succeeds or doesn't. Blu makes for a fine wishy-washy hero, whose priorities for survival and natural instincts have been marred by a reclusive and idle life. He is unable to fly, and he can only imagine attempting to do so on a conceptual level. After learning he will be returning to his homeland and encountering a potential mate with far more natural leanings than himself, he draws up a diagram for flight ("Believe" scrawled and circled near the top of his formula being the closest he has to an idea of innate intuition), makes a runway with a flashing string of lights, and, of course, fails miserably. Eisenberg's hesitant vocal inflections work quite well coming from the bird's mouth.
Once the rest of the motley crew enters, the proceedings become far more hit-and-miss. Hathaway's feisty Jewel is a fine foil, but Rafael (voice of George Lopez), a toucan with a big family who just wants some time away for himself, is a rather dull mentor in the ways of love. The bumbling smugglers have some funny moments (Their makeshift parade float being one of them), but Blu's pun-happy sidekicks (voices of Jamie Foxx and will.i.am) start to grate. The aforementioned devious cockatoo Nigel (voice of Jemaine Clement) is a successful foe, but a band of thieving monkeys are only present for an underwhelming brawl between birds and primates.Ultimately, despite a strong first act and some smatterings of visual flair (Blu's first "successful" flight, riding on hang gliders over the city), Rio is downright forgettable.
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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