Rio (2011)


Director:  Carlos Saldanha
Cast:  Jesse EisenbergAnne Hathaway, George Lopez, Leslie Mann, Jamie Foxx
Plot:  When Blu, a domesticated macaw from small-town Minnesota, meets the fiercely independent Jewel, he takes off on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro with this bird of his dreams.

Genre:  Animation / Adventure / Comedy
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Original Song.
Runtime:  96min
Rating:  PG for mild off color humor.

From the director of the Ice Age (2002, 2006, 2009) films, Rio is an above average animated offering from 20th Century Fox Animation.  Despite an A-list voice cast of Jessie Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, and Jamie Foxx, the film is unable to hold its own against the likes of recent animated films such as How to Train Your Dragon (2010), The Illusionist (2010), and Rango (2011). 

Writer Don Rhymer, who co-wrote Surf’s Up (2007), a surprisingly good animated film featuring penguins, pens an overly simplistic screenplay that lacks creativity.  As a result, Rio’s story is less than engaging.

Eisenberg voices Blu, a domesticated male macaw from a town in Minnesota who is taken care of by Linda (Mann).  A request by a bird doctor to temporarily send Blu back to Rio de Janeiro, where he was originally from, to meet a female macaw named Jewel (Hathaway) so that they could produce offsprings that would continue their rare species, leads the characters head-on into an adventure that pits good against evil in a land known not only for its energetic samba music and dance, and its assortments of kaleidoscopic festival colors, but also for its violent organized crime (think City of God, 2002).

Because Rio is meant for a PG-rated audience, the bad guys depicted in the film are not brutal gangsters but stupid bird smugglers who ought to grow brains.  The villains (both humans and bird, and to a certain extent, mischievous little monkeys) are pretty much paper-thin characters that you know would be left with eggs on their faces by the end of the film.  

Such is the predictability of Rio that it is a film that somewhat gets uninteresting as time passes, though that may not apply for kids, but for the adults who are forced to tag along.  Much of Rio’s visuals play to the strength of the flamboyant Brazilian culture.  Colors are abundant and vibrant while the spirit of joy can be easily felt. 

This is especially so in the climactic scene involving a parade of dance performances atop huge elaborately-dressed vehicles that move in a slow procession.  Much of the humor comes from the neurotic jokes that Blu cracks up, but even then, it does not quite tickle your funny bone, and may even seem a trifle out of place in this film for kids. 

Rio is good fun as a family movie, but to some, their feel-good experience may be muted by a largely forgettable story.

GRADE: B- (7/10 or 3 stars)

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