Synopsis: Captured by smugglers when he was just a hatchling, a macaw named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) never learned to fly and lives a happily domesticated life in Minnesota with his human friend, Linda. Blu is thought to be the last of his kind, but when word comes that Jewel (Anne Hathaway), a lone female, lives in Rio de Janeiro, Blu and Linda go to meet her. Animal smugglers kidnap the Blu and Jewel, but the birds soon escape and begin a perilous adventure back to freedom — and Linda.
Release Date: April 15, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Children and Family, Comedy
Remember a time, long ago, before every animated feature film had to be a Pixar masterpiece? There is no doubt that Pixar is home to some of the most talented filmmakers in the world, but because of that it’s almost unfair to compare every animated film released to their Holy Grail standards. Rio is a decent night out with the family, a film focused more on fun than winning an Oscar.
The film starts with a beautiful shot of Rio de Janeiro from the tall trees of the Amazon. As the camera pulls back the audience has the pleasure of enjoying a choreographed musical number performed by a chorus line of exotic birds. This joyous celebration comes to a sudden end however, when smugglers arrive and a bright blue baby macaw, appropriately named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), falls from his nest. The next scene reveals the birds aboard an exotic pet truck in snowy Minnesota where baby Blu again happens to fall from. Fortunately, he is picked up and cared for by a nerdy little girl named Linda (Leslie Mann). Flash-forward fifteen years and Blu has no recollection of ever being in the rainforest; he’s an over-domesticated pet bird who never learned to fly. Just like his owner who prefers the confines of her bookstore rather than traveling to strange and distant lands, Blu enjoys his cage, and his routine that starts with Linda’s hot cocoa every morning.
The world of owner and pet collapses and the story really takes off when a bird conservationist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) persuades Linda to travel closer to the Equator. She must bring Blu back to Brazil in order to mate with another macaw named Jewel (Anne Hathaway) in order to preserve their endangered species. The vivacity of the Rio de Janeiro lifestyle is captured beautifully in the film. Through a bright palette of lively colors combined with some amazing wide shots from the rooftops of the slum, Brazil is everything one would imagine it to be. From soccer to sunbathing, motorcycles to samba, and of course the city’s annual Carnival festival, Rio de Janeiro is the perfect place for Linda and Blu to let loose, let go of their comfort zone inhibitions, let instinct take the place of over-analysis and just have fun. And there’s plenty of fun to go around. There’s a chubby security guard with a golden underwear outfit, a drooling bulldog voiced by Tracy Morgan, an entertaining musical number by a cannibalistic cockatoo voiced by the “Flight of the Conchord’s” Jemaine Clement, and even a fight scene of birds vs. monkeys. And with Jamie Foxx and Will i Am of The Black Eyed Peas accompanying the soundtrack, the old Disney musical formula doesn’t feel as stale. Even if the film occasionally falls into some racial stereotypes (Mexican Actor/Comedian George Lopez plays a toucan with too many kids to count) the excellent cast still provides plenty of laughs for kids too young to notice.
The problem is that the big kids do notice. Not just racist subtext, but adults know when a movie seems to be running a little too long. Messages of breaking free of one’s cage and learning to fly free are fine, but not when the message is learned with fifty minutes remaining. Almost instantly the audience knows the leads will fall in love and live happily ever after, the orphan child will be adopted into the family, that the hero will learn his lesson and defeat the bad guy. Predictability makes the film drag, which otherwise is a decently constructed family outing. Rio won’t be one of the ten best picture nominees come next January, but for anyone looking for a quick vacation, the Brazilian sun is a simple drive to the theater.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Carlos Saldanha
- Producer(s): Don Rhymer
- Screenwriter(s): Leslie Mann (voice of Linda)Jesse Eisenberg (voice of Blu)Anne Hathaway (voice of Jewel)
- Story: Wanda Sykes (voice of Chloe)
- Cast: Jane Lynch (voice of Alice)Jamie Foxx (voice of Nico) Renato Falcao
- Cinematographer: John Powell
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA