MRR Review: "Rio 2"

Photo Credit: Gkids

Rating: G
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: April 11, 2014
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha
Genre: Animation / Adventure / Comedy

The 2011 animated family flick "Rio" introduced the world to two lovable blue macaws entangled in the illegal animal trade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After nearly three years, Blu and Jewel are back along with their three chicks in the highly anticipated sequel. When evidence turns up of other blue macaws living in the Amazon, Blu and the gang embark on an exciting, dangerous trip to the rainforest. The 2014 sequel "Rio 2" brings back the characters audiences know and love from the first movie, and a host of new songs and adventures keep viewers thoroughly entertained from beginning to end.

"Rio 2" begins in Rio de Janeiro where the first movie left off. The Brazilians are enjoying a New Year's celebration as they dance on Copacabana beach dressed in white. Blu, a rare blue macaw raised as a house pet in Minnesota, is spending time with his wild-born mate Jewel and their three chicks Bia, Tiago and Carla. Joining in the festivities are the slobbering, fun-loving bulldog Luiz and the bird duet Nico and Pedro. Bird expert Tulio and Blu's original owner Linda have adopted Fernando, the orphan boy who was living in the slums of Rio.

When Tulio and Linda embark on an expedition into the Amazon forest, they soon discover evidence that Blu, Jewel and their children may not actually be the last of their species. When Blu and Jewel hear about this on the news, she insists that the family take a trip to the Amazon to search for themselves. Blu, who has grown fond of urban luxuries such as pancakes and portable music players, is reluctant. Jewel believes their children have become too accustomed to this privileged life, and she wants them to discover their heritage and remember their wild instincts.

The family eventually decide to make the journey, accompanied by Nico, Pedro and the smooth-talking toucan Rafael. They soon discover that an entire tribe of their rare macaw species is alive and well, and it turns out to be Jewel's family. She is ecstatic to reunite with her father Eduardo, the stern tribe leader who takes an instant liking to the chicks. Blu, on the other hand, does not win over Eduardo's trust and respect so easily. He and the others encounter a number of difficulties in the Amazon, from a rival tribe of scarlet macaws to the vengeful cockatoo Nigel and the imminent threat of deforestation. Amidst this, Blu must win the tribe's acceptance and face an unexpected competitor for Jewel's affections.

"Rio 2" effectively captures the same fun and humor that made the first film such a success. Nico and Pedro, energetically voiced by Jamie Foxx and Will.i.Am, keep the atmosphere light as they crack constant jokes. The nefarious Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement, adds an interesting level of humor to the story.

Although the movie does not take place in its namesake city of Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon rainforest setting is both exciting and visually stunning. Due to the diversity of the Amazonian flora and fauna, the film never lacks material for various jokes and perilous moments, which include piranhas, boa constrictors and singing poison-dart frogs. This setting also works well for the ecological message evident in the film.

"Rio 2" clearly touches on the theme of environmental responsibility as Blu and friends must protect the forest against evil foresters. The real-life Amazon forest of Brazil is facing the true danger of deforestation and subsequent extinction of endangered species, making this theme particularly relevant. The movie also promotes the importance of family as well as the acceptance of oneself and others. These themes are expertly weaved into the plot without ever coming off as preachy.

Like its predecessor "Rio 2" features various musical numbers that celebrate traditional Brazilian music. Most of the songs feature samba rhythm and melodies, which adds an exotic appeal even though the film could have benefited from a more diverse assortment of Brazilian musical styles. Aside from the songs, the film celebrates Brazilian culture in other ways, such as introducing a turtle that practices capoeira and using popular Brazilian names for its characters, such as Tiago, Gabi and Fernando.

"Rio 2" offers the kind of fun, adventure and humor that appeals to all ages, and it is easily as entertaining as the first film. The plot, although at times not focused enough, is both strong and inspirational, and the characters always believable. This is the perfect film for families with children of all ages, but it is also a great flick for fun-loving adults.