Blu (voice of Jesse Eisenberg) is a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, and enjoys a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda (voice of Leslie Mann) in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. Blu and Linda think he's the last of his kind, but when they learn about another macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the exotic city to find Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway), Blu's female counterpart. Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by a group of bungling animal smugglers. Blu escapes, aided by the street smart Jewel and a group of wisecracking and smooth-talking city birds. Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return to best friend Linda.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its contagious Latin rhythms and explosions of colour, this happy, squawking 3D adventure set on a striking backdrop of Rio de Janeiro is great family fare. Visually wonderful with great characters, loads of laughs and enough heart to make us care, Rio is energetic, non-stop entertainment and action, with themes of friendship, love and courage. With style, whimsy and joie de vivre, the film combines action with a wonderful sense of mischief and good storytelling.
During a dazzling opening sequence in the brightly coloured jungles of South America in which a rainbow-coloured cast of hundreds perform mid-air acrobatics in formation, we meet the film's fledgling macaw hero who has not even had a chance to peek outside his nest or learn to spread his wings. Snatched by bird smugglers, the contrast between Rio and snowy Moose Lake Minnesota, where the brightest colour is the red of the traffic light could not be greater. The early establishment scenes showing the strong bond of friendship between Blu (voice of Jesse Eisenberg) and his saviour Linda (voice of Leslie Mann) are all important. Blu is not Linda's pet; they are companions, who share their life together.
The fun really begins in Rio, when Blu meets the spirited and beautiful turquoise Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway), whose first and only agenda is to escape. So much for the disco ball and Lionel Ritchie music intended to allow them a romantic moment. Jemaine Clement's frustrated ex-soap opera star cockatoo Nigel is a delicious villain who goes all out to recapture the two macaws who by now have escaped but are chained together. The fact that Blu has not learned to fly brings unlimited opportunities for the filmmakers to present amusing and imaginative situations. Gliding through the skies with the spectacular city of Rio below on the wings of a paraglider makes for great visuals and the mischievous pickpocket monkeys who work with the evil Nigel in a bid to recapture Blu and Jewel provide some of the film's humorous highlights.
The story's climactic scenes take place during Carnivale and we are right in the middle of the parade among the floats, surrounded by drums, bright feathers, sequins, wild headdresses, palm trees on stilts and attitude galore. Linda, hot on the trail of her beloved macaw, has the potential of her own romance with ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) and characters include Nico the canary (Jamie Foxx), who beats a bottle top as if it were a tambourine, Pedro a striking pelican (will.i.am) with a large brood of his own and Louis (Tracy Morgan), the drooling bulldog who looks incongruous in a Carmen Miranda hat.
There's something for all ages in this life-affirming joyous animation, where our toes tap, our hearts are uplifted and spirits soar as friendships blossom and wings are spread.
DVD special features include deleted scenes with optional commentary by David Bowers, alternate ending with optional commentary.
Andrew L. Urban:
Colour, movement, music and some sparkling animation make Rio a straight ahead family film, an adventure with a few subtle messages and a clear desire to please - especially 8 -12 year olds. It may outstay its welcome for their parents, though. There is nothing radical or new in the animation, especially in the human characters, but they are secondary to the birds, of which there are several varieties, from the blue Macaw (imaginatively called Blu, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) to an assortment of parrots and the like, to the nasty sourpuss cockatoo called Nigel (Jemaine Clement) who is supposed to be from Australia (according to the notes for the film) but who sounds more like a brutish British crim.
The predictable storyline has some fun elements and the support characters, like Nico, a canary (voice of Jamie Foxx), and Pedro, a cardinal (voice of will.i.am), the colourful little duo that would feel at home in any black neighbourhood in America with their street jive.
Much of the film's story is predicated on Blu not being able to fly - because he's too scared. He's also quite a nerd, as is the ornithologist, Tulio (voice of Rodrigo Santoro), who comes to take him to Rio to mate with the last female of his species, Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway). This key aspect of the story is never resolved, though... no eggs.
Jewel is a feisty character; she takes charge in every situation, as does Blu's owner Linda (voice of Leslie Mann) who has to ride the motorbike when Tulio can't. For other underwhelming male role models (not to mention Nigel), see the three bird smugglers who steal Blu in order to sell him, along with dozens of other exotic birds.
Blu himself is a cowardly dork, his ultimate redemption engineered by circumstance more than by his finding courage in his own make up. The female characters don't quite fill in the character vacuum and the predictable resolution, delivered as expected, makes Rio not much more than a ho-hum entertainment for a rainy Sunday afternoon.
But the technicals are excellent and there are lots of fun scenes of Rio including a colourful chase amidst the floats of Carnivale.
Published September 28, 2011
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RIO: DVD (G)
VOICES: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Jamie Foxx, Jake T. Austin, Jemaine Clement, Tracy Morgan, Carlos Ponce, Rodrigo Santoro, George Lopez
PRODUCER: Bruce Anderson, John C. Donkin
DIRECTOR: Carlos Saldanha
SCRIPT: Don Rhymer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Renato Falcão
MUSIC: John Powell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Art direction: Claude-William Trebutien
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 7, 2011
SPECIAL FEATURES: DVD special features include deleted scenes with optional commentary by David Bowers, alternate ending with optional commentary.
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
DVD RELEASE: September 28, 2011