Rio (2011) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for mild off color humor (re-rated to G)
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast (voices): Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, George Lopez, Jemaine Clement, Rodrigo Santoro
Small role (voices): Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Judah Friedlander, Sergio Mendes
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Screenplay: Don Rhymer, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia, Sam Harper
Review published April 8, 2014
At first glance, Rio is the kind of film that I loathe to watch, with its fish-out-of-water premise, full of over-caffeinated characters, silly and prolonged dance numbers, and plenty of mild, gross-out humor. While the film certainly has these elements in abundance, it's also a well-crafted, colorful, and quite clever animated family feature.
Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, Cursed) voices Blu, a neurotic blue macaw who has been the longtime pet of introverted small Minnesota town bookstore owner, Linda (Mann, Knocked Up). Linda had thought Blu would be the last blue macaw in existence, but finds she may be wrong when she's visited by Tulio (Santoro, 300), a zealous Brazilian ornithologist, who says he has captured a female blue macaw in the wild and would like to save their species by bringing Blu (and Linda) down to his facility in Rio de Janeiro to get him together with his counterpart, dubbed Jewel (Hathaway, Alice in Wonderland).
A wrench gets thrown in the works when the birds are snatched by avaricious local smugglers set on selling these extremely valuable birds for a small fortune. When Jewel hatches their escape, the fully domesticated Blu, who ends up getting chained to his more headstrong potential mate, is alarmed to find it truly is a jungle out there, craving the comfort of his life back home, as he seeks to find Linda before the before dangerous smugglers and carnivorous wild animals do them in first.
Rio benefits from the direction of Carlos Saldanha, a Brazilian who directed the wildly popular Ice Age films, all done for Blue Sky Studios. Saldanha infects his film with what people around the world love about Brazil (using various stereotypes to its advantage), most notably its samba and bossa nova music (Brazilian legend Sergio Mendes supervises the music for Rio), love of dancing, its colorful wardrobe, and its lush animal life, its breathtaking vistas in and around Rio de Janeiro. Blu's true nemesis in the film, a cockatoo named Nigel (Clement, Despicable Me) who is allied with the smugglers, is actually effectively frightening.
The staples you expect are all in there, including chases through the partying at Carnival and jaunts through the lower-class favelas. Superb voice work helps, and there are plenty of comic relief sidekicks to keep the kiddies in stitches, though the accents and languages used by the various animal characters seems very arbitrary.
The animation is not only colorful but quite detailed, to the point of photorealism at times, as well as very fluid in its movement and speed. While younger viewers will no doubt get the most enjoyment out of Rio, it will also entertain older adults through its skillful animation, witty humor and inventiveness. It's not exactly substantial, or in any way original, but for a pure entertainment feature, it's innocuous, breezy fun.
-- Followed by Rio 2 (2014)
©2014 Vince Leo