Review of Rio


Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha returns to familiar territory with 'Rio', having set it in his native Brazil and producing it with Blue Sky Studios and Pixar, where he previously worked on the three 'Ice Age' movies.

In 'Rio,' a blue macaw hatchling is smuggled out of the country and accidentally falls out of a truck somewhere in Minnesota. A kind young girl named Linda Gunderson (voiced by Leslie Mann) picks him up and raises him, naming him Blu (Jesse Eisenberg). But Blu has one problem, aside from being far from his native land, he cannot fly.

It turns out Blu may be the last male of his increasingly rare species, so when a grown-up Linda is approached by ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) to bring Blu to Brazil to mate and increase the blue macaw population, she agrees. It is at this point that the story really begins to take off, with Blu falling for another blue macaw at Tulio's aviary named Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Jewel is a fiery blue macaw with a big independent streak. She longs for her freedom from the aviary. Before they can hatch their escape plot, the aviary is broken into, and the pair is captured and chained together at the legs. Fernando (Jake T. Austin) and Nigel (Jemaine Clement) are their captors, with cockatoo Nigel arguably being the funniest character in the entire movie.

Blu and Jewel manage to escape only to get lost in the wild jungles of Brazil. They make their way to Rio de Janiero, which is busy celebrating the yearly carnival. In this environment, Blu and Jewel find the freedom that she always wanted and he never realized he wanted. Of course, they still have smugglers Fernando and Nigel after them along with Linda and Tulio, who are desperate to get them back to the aviary safely. Chaos, adventure and lots of singing ensue.

'Rio,' like so many movies produced by Pixar, has some lofty expectations to meet. The animation giant has produced so many stellar films that now each subsequent film has to meet those high standards. Visually, 'Rio' will not disappoint. It picks up where previous Pixar offering 'Up' left off, serving up a stunning array of color that can be best described as eye candy. Though the film is available in True 3D, it does not have to be viewed in 3D in order to fully enjoy the dazzling colors and visuals, though it does help. Unlike many movies that are not shot in 3D then converted later, 'Rio' was made with 3D in mind and so does take advantage of the medium. The overall story will come across well either way for those who don't like wearing the dark 3D glasses for a whole movie.

In terms of story, 'Rio' is unapologetically a popcorn movie. It does have the usual moral lessons that most movies of this kind have, but it does not take a heavy hand to them. Unlike 'Up,' which had much weightier subject matter, 'Rio' just wants to entertain you. With several catchy song-and-dance numbers sprinkled throughout the film, it definitely accomplishes that goal.

Like most animated films, you may find yourself playing 'Guess the Celebrity Voice' when watching, because it has an all-star cast. In addition to Eisenberg and Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, Wanda Sykes and all lend their voices to various parts.

'Rio' makes for a great family movie because children and adults alike will be engrossed in it. Some animated movies have plots that may go over the heads of children, but not this one. That isn't to say it is simplistic, because it's not. Don Rhymer's screenplay is well written and hardly fluff. Despite the stellar writing and Saldanha's superb directing, this movie just wants you to have fun. And that's exactly what you will have with 'Rio.'