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Movie Review: ‘Rio’

April 15, 2011
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Parents, I’ve got some good news for you. Rio is a breezy spring arrival that you can actually enjoy with your kids, for a change. We certainly deserve it after wallowing through the less than stellar offerings of the last few months.

The opening sequence is an explosion of colorful plumage as the tropical birds inhabiting a Brazilian rainforest sing and dance. With the wide variety of colorful species, it feels a bit like The Enchanted Tiki Room at Disney.  The celebration is short-lived, though. An abrupt silence falls over the forest as poachers snatch the birds and throw them into cages ultimately destined for pet stores in America.

Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is a baby blue macaw who is taken in the raid, and eventually finds his way into the home of Linda (Leslie Mann), a kind-hearted girl who raises the little guy like a child. Linda is now a grown woman, and the two of them are inseparable.

One day Linda is approached by an Tulio, an ornithologist (Rodrigo Santoro) who wants to bring Rio back to his homeland to mate with the only other blue macaw in existence. Thus begins a wild adventure for Rio, Tulio, Linda, and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the beautiful female macaw.

Jewel and the other wild birds are a bit underwhelmed by the domesticated bird that never even learned to fly, but bit by bit Rio earns his wings, so to speak. A myriad of secondary characters are voiced by Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Jamie Foxx, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, and will.i.am.  Jesse Eisenberg’s nerdy charm is perfect for Blu, and Anne Hathaway is well suited for Jewel’s voice.

Jewel is no damsel in distress-in a refreshing twist, she actually gets Blu out of more than one mess. She’s fiercely independent, something I like to see in female characters, even if they are animated.

The 90 minute film zips along at an even pace, the colors pop, and the 3D is crisp and clear. The film is written and directed by Carlos Saldanha, who also directed the Ice Age movies, and definitely knows his way around a movie aimed at a young audience.

Brazil is an inspired choice for the backdrop of the story. A lively soundtrack peppered with familiar Latin music adds to the festive feel of the movie. There is a bit of a message about pillaging the rainforest, but it is not preachy in any way, it’s just presented as part of Blu’s childhood.

For the most part, the laughs in the movie are well earned, and it avoids the bathroom humor so pervasive in a lot of kids movies today. It’s sweet and uplifting, though not particularly deep. The film comes by way of Blu Sky Studios (the Ice Age Films), which is quickly becoming a respected purveyor of animated fare.

The animated birds and animals are adorable. I suspect there will be a dearth of merchandise available that our kids will be clamoring for. Heck, I’d be tempted to pick up a “baby” Blu toy for myself.

Rating 4/5  Rio is rated G.  Written and Directed by Carlos Saldanha.  Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Anne Hathaway, will.i.am, Jane Lynch, Tracy Morgan, Wanda Sykes, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Jemaine Clement.

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