Rio tells the story of Blu (Eisenberg), a rare macaw who is stolen from his nest as a chick and ends up in the snowy Minnesota town of Moose Lake. He is raised and cared for by Linda (Mann) and lives a life of domesticated luxury in her bookshop. Then they receive a visit from Tulio (Santoro), a bird expert from Brazil who tells them they must travel with him to Rio so that they can introduce Blu to the only remaining female of his kind, Jewel (Hathaway). Arriving in Rio, Blu and Jewel are soon stolen by bird smugglers intent on selling them on to the highest bidder. They soon escape but they have one small problem. Blu has never learned to fly. He must overcome his fear of the skies with the help of Jewel, a wise Toucan called Rafael (Lopez), two wisecracking birds Pedro and Nico (Will.i.am and Foxx) and Luiz (Morgan) a slobbering Bulldog, if they are going to keep one step ahead of the bad guys and their evil cockatoo Nigel (Clement) and make it back to Linda and Tulio alive.
[3D Video after the jump]
Rio, despite an occasionally annoying ad campaign, actually turns out to be entertaining if slightly superficial fun. The animation is bright, colourful and detailed, a far cry from the occasionally flat and unattractive look of the Ice Age series. One downside of the 3D version is that some of those bright colours are inevitably muted, due to the glasses. The 3D itself is very similar to that in most animated films these days, occasionally effective, often not. It works best in the action sequences, a flight over Rio with the aid of a hang-glider, an escape over the roof tops of the favelas, or a motorbike ride through it’s narrow streets and alleyways all of which are very exciting. Though they’d probably be just as impressive without the added dimension.
The story itself is slight and functional but the script is often very funny and gets a decent amount of laughs out of the contrast between the domesticated Blu and the more street-smart inhabitants of Brazil. Yes the idea of buttoned-down, repressed Americans (Linda also has a similar journey to make) learning to embrace the fun side of life in the more open and care-free continent of South America is hardly original, but it’s lightly done and the message of learning to live with your heart and not your head isn’t overstated too much. The film also manages to get away with more dancing bird/animal scenes than is usually possible due to the setting of Rio during Carnivale.
The voice over work is very strong. Jesse Eisenberg’s anxious and nervous shtick proves to be just as charming in the form of an animated bird as it is in live action. Anne Hathaway is strong and fiesty (though why they got an American actress to play a Brazilian bird is a slight mystery). There’s also good support from Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx and Tracy Morgan as the more comedic characters, who are actually less annoying than expected. It’s a shame though that both Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch are wasted as a pair of Canadian Geese back in Moose Lake. Best of all however is Jemaine Clement as the bad guy’s evil cockatoo Nigel. Flight of the Conchords fans will be glad to hear that he got to co-write and sing his own song ‘Pretty Bird’ (sample lyric ‘Like an abandoned school I have no principals/principles’), he also delivers one of my favourite lines of the film spoken to a bunch of pick-pocketing monkeys (I’m not interested in your nicked Knick-knacks. Your burgled baubles bore me’).
Overall Rio may lack the depth and detail of Pixar or the more recent Rango in terms of script and animation but it’s a very enjoyable and spirited movie in it’s own right, and should entertain both adults and kids. A word of advice to those not entirely sold on 3D though, seek out the 2D version. It will be cheaper and the glorious colours will be far brighter.
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