Review: Rio 2
PLOT: In this sequel to the 2011 hit RIO, Blu and Jewel – the blue macaw lovebirds – have settled down with their three children. However, Jewel wants the young birds to get a taste of the wild as opposed to simply being pancake eating pets. After a little convincing, Blu takes his family and a handful of friends over to the Amazon and find long-lost family and new found enemies galore.
REVIEW: Whenever you have a successful animated feature it’s no surprise a sequel is on its way. In 2011 Fox animation presented audiences with the colorfully cheery RIO about a macaw named Blu. The first film offered a number of fun characters including Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), his owner Linda (Leslie Mann) and the dastardly devious Nigel (Jermaine Clement). All of these characters return for RIO 2 as well as Jewel (Anne Hathaway), Fernando (Jake T. Austin), Nico (Jamie Foxx), Rafael (George Lopez) plus a whole new cast of characters including the scene-stealing Kristin Chenoweth as a lovelorn poisonous frog named Gabi and a crooning old-flame for Jewel named Roberto (voiced by Bruno Mars).
To start off this incredibly convoluted tale, we find Blu and Jewel with their three offspring Bia (Amandla Stenberg), Tiago (Pierce Gagnon) and Carla (Rachel Crow) have become all too domesticated for Jewel’s sensibilities. In hopes to raise her family as real birds should, she convinces the skeptical Blu to pack up the gang for an adventure to the Amazon. Of course we soon realize that these rare birds are not alone as Jewel’s long lost family, including her overbearing father Eduardo (Andy Garcia), are alive and well and ready to welcome her and her new family to their Amazonian paradise. Of course all is not perfect for the new found clan as far too many villains are closing in on their happy – well not so happy for Blu – abode.
With a sequel, its common that the stakes are higher than the first time around but occasionally too much is just simply too much. For starters we have a very bitter Nigel returning to cause harm to Blu, as well as his anteater and poisonous frog sidekicks. An environmental message kicks in as a number of dangerous men are looking to tear down everything in sight, including the feathered friend’s trees in which they have made their home. Add to that another species of bird that has some sort of feud going on with Eduardo and the macaws he helps protect. The amount of conflicts that Blu and the gang have is beyond overkill and bogs this chapter down with unnecessary characters. As much as I love Leslie Mann as Linda and Rodrigo Santoro’s Tulio, their storyline about protecting the rainforest has been done to death in animated features.
One of the strengths of the first film is the many musical numbers, and they are present here as well. With award-winning composer John Powell, original music from UAKTI, Barbatuques, Janelle Monáe and Wondaland Arts Society as well as a nifty addition of Bruno Mars, there are a handful of enticing musical numbers to satisfy the senses. Monae’s “What is Love”, and Nigel’s entertaining take on the Gloria Gaynor disco classic “I Will Survive” offer moments of fun. But it is Chenoweth’s riotously funny “Poisonous Love” that offers audiences the silliest and sweetest tune on the soundtrack. This little love-struck frog is the most welcome addition to the cast as she adds a touch of fun to Clement’s revenge seeking Nigel.
The animation behind RIO 2 uses 3D considerably well, especially when it comes to the bombastic and wildly enthusiastic musical numbers. At times, the eye-popping images come to life and give audiences a pretty decent spectacle. Filmmaker Carlos Saldanha continues to create a strong visual display with an assortment of birds and impressive recreations of Rio as well as the Amazon. When this sequel explores the new elements which Blu and Jewel find their family in, there is a bit of magic thanks to the beautifully realized look of it all. It’s just a shame that the script by Saldanha and Don Rhymer insist on filling what could have been a family friendly adventure into a bit of a messy mix of useless character and story.
RIO 2 offers up many of the elements that make the first film work. The musical numbers are lively and the animation is visually impressive. With a G-rating, younger audiences won’t mind too much the cliché heavy plot with more villains than a bad superhero flick. Yet even for them, this simple sequel may feel too big for its own good. While it is far from a disaster - in fact it is occasionally entertaining – a little focus could have made for a more inspired part two. There are enough story and subplots in the mix for two sequels making the constant threat against Blu and the macaws tedious. Perhaps if this musical extravaganza makes a ton of money they can put a little focus and heart back into this fine-feathered feature for a high-flying number three.
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