PLOT: When a domesticated blue macaw is brought to Rio in order to mate with a female, the two birds find themselves trying to escape bumbling bird smugglers. While chained together, both of the birds must come to accept the other, he as a “pet” that can’t fly, and she who longs to soar high above the earth. Thanks to a little help from their friends, the two find themselves on an adventure of a lifetime, and possibly in love… with a little song and dance thrown in.
There is a peaceful serenity throughout the majestic trees that cover Rio de Janeiro. The birds begin to chirp, squeak and sing, and suddenly, it is bursting with music. Sleeping high up above the ground in a large tree is a baby blue macaw. This little bird feels the music as he serenely rests his weary head, yet even he cannot resist the pulsating rhythm. When he begins to join in this wildlife party it is rudely interrupted by men with cages, ready to pluck the birds from their homes. Yet this little bird is lucky enough to fall into the hands of a little girl who is more than willing to be his mother and friend.
Rio is a lively and sometimes stunning adventure for a bird named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and the woman who took him in all those years ago, Linda (Leslie Mann). In fact, if it wasn’t for Eisenberg and Mann creating such an incredibly charming relationship as owner and pet – or friend to friend – this animated tale wouldn’t have nearly the amount of charm it possesses. This is especially evident early on as the two share a bond that is disarmingly wonderful. After all, both have suffered heartbreak and fear, yet together they can take on the world. This relationship keeps Blu’s escapade personal and involving. You want both Blu and Linda to be happy because they are so darn sweet together. Even though his years under her care have kept the bird from following his natural instinct to fly… he just can’t do it.
When Linda and Blu are convinced to fly to Rio in order to have the dashing hero mate with another macaw, things really get lively, albeit predictable. Blu is introduced to Jewel (Anne Hathaway), a beautiful and seductive macaw, who has no interest in mating. We soon find that those pesky bird snatchers have an interest in the last two remaining macaws, and during the night, Blu and Jewel are birdnapped. This of course leads to several chase sequences, during which the two must find friends to help Jewel to freedom and get Blu back to his BFF Linda.
Along the way, we meet a number of friends and foes including George Lopez as a wise old Toucan named Rafael. The Black Eyed Pea will.i.am and Jamie Foxx supply the groovy beats as Pedro and Nico, respectively. And then there is baddie bird Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement (FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS). This ghastly fellow is a bird with a chip on his shoulder, and he helps out a group of ruffians who illegally capture the fair feathered friends and sell them to the highest bidder. The wonderfully inspired casting choices are especially good, most notably Clement who is a perfect villain for this avian adventure.
The beauty in the animation is bright and vivid and enticing. This family friendly look at Rio and its inhabitants certainly shines, especially when we see some of the city’s landmarks, such as the Christ the Redeemer statue as the audience experiences flight thanks to director Carlos Saldanha (ICE AGE) and crew. The 3D, while not necessary, does add spark to the already grand visuals occasionally. Unless you are simply desperate to wear the glasses, the film is fanciful enough without them.
As inspired as the casting was, and as beautiful as director Saldanha makes it look, the music is the film’s prime upset. Just mere moments after the end credits rolled, it was near impossible to recall one of the film’s “infectious” tunes. Most of the music was handled by Sergio Mendes and John Powell. Aside from a couple of ‘kaw-kawing’ numbers singing the praises of Rio, the only songs that really stood out were courtesy of will.i.am and Jamie Foxx. Yet it was sort of entertaining to hear Lopez, Hathaway and Eisenberg belt out a tune here and there.
Rio is an extravagant family film with likable characters, a phenomenal visual aspect and a charming story. The music won’t rock your world, and you’ll be well ahead of the characters when it comes to where the story goes, yet you’ll have a smile on your face the whole darn time.
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