MRR Movie Review: Rio


Movie Review: "Rio"

-- Rating: PG
Length: 96 minutes
Release date: April 8, 2011
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Part coming-of-age story and part fun adventure romp, "Rio" makes the most of the talents of the award-winning animators behind the "Ice Age" movies. This film isn't just a piece of mindless entertainment, though; it's also a window into some of the real problems facing endangered wildlife, such as poachers and a lack of breeding opportunities. Fortunately, the combination of socially conscious cinema and animated fun works well instead of veering too far in either direction.

The stellar cast includes Academy Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg as Blu and Academy Award nominee Ann Hathaway as Jewel, and the colorful setting instantly immerses viewers in the atmosphere of Brazil. The samba beats and lyrical tunes bring the city of Rio de Janeiro to life and will have you tapping your toes as you watch the movie. The script of "Rio" is fairly straightforward, but that's no surprise given that it's intended for children. Although "Rio" is aimed at kids, it has plenty of jokes and entertaining moments for the grownups as well, making it ideal for a family movie night. Cute one-liners will become repeated phrases in your home for weeks to come after you watch "Rio" with your family. The main characters are charming and interesting, and kids and adults alike will enjoy following them through their adventures and rooting for their success.

At the start of the movie, Blu, a thoroughly domesticated Blue Macaw, is living a quiet life in Minnesota with the young woman who found him as a baby years before after he fell off a poacher's truck. Blu and his human companion, Linda, voiced by Leslie Mann, would like nothing more than to continue their calm, predictable lifestyle, but fate has other plans for the two of them.

Brazilian zoologist Tulio, voiced by Rodrigo Santoro, arrives at their home begging Linda to bring her bird to mate with the only other bird of his kind left in the world. Both Linda and Blu are initially reluctant to leave their pleasant life for a South American adventure. After finally deciding to travel to Blu's home country of Brazil for the good of the species, they discover that the female Blue Macaw, named Jewel, is a sarcastic and determined bird desperate to escape captivity. Blu and Jewel soon get embroiled in a poaching plot, and Linda and Tulio set off to find them. A bitterly jealous cockatoo named Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement, serves as the enemy of the two macaws, bringing attention to the plight of many cockatoos that are purchased as pretty pets but abandoned or neglected as they grow older and their owners cannot accommodate their special needs. Nigel is a villain to feel sorry for instead of hate. His villainy comes from his circumstances, which he was forced into by humans. The fact that Blu cannot fly due to his lifelong domestication adds depth to the story; he must be taught by a friendly toucan, Raphael, voiced by George Lopez. Other characters who come to the aid of Blu and Jewel include a canary and a cardinal, voiced by Jamie Foxx and Will i Am. As the two macaws make their way toward freedom from the poachers, they slowly fall in love. This leads to a dilemma for Blu when he must choose between his growing love for Jewel and his life in Minnesota with Linda. The conclusion addresses the issues of keeping birds in captivity and is both satisfying and uplifting, a rare combination in modern movies.

The friendship theme and sweet romantic plotlines keep "Rio" delightfully upbeat, even when the characters are in dangerous situations. The colorful characters keep you smiling from the start of the movie to the soaring end, and the musical numbers are infectiously memorable. Kids who watch the movie will also learn a little about Brazilian customs, such as Carnivale, giving them a greater appreciation of the world. Parents may also appreciate that both Jewel and Linda are portrayed as intelligent headstrong females who take control of their own destinies instead of as victims waiting to be rescued.

One of the best things about "Rio" is the underlying conservation message. This message is presented in a way that keeps kids entertained but also leaves doors open for parents and caregivers to start a discussion about the real problems that endangered animals face. For an environmentally conscious parent, this movie is a great choice.

Rating: 3 out of 5