Rio Directed by: Carlos Saldanha Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez Running Time: 1 hr 36 mins Rating: PG Release Date: April 15, 2011
PLOT: Blue Macaw, Blu (Eisenberg) lives a quiet life with his owner in Minnesota. Until a Brazilian scientist brings them to Rio in an effort to save Blu's species, it seems he and Jewel (Hathaway) are the last of their kind. Then things really come unglued when Blu and Jewel are birdnapped by an smuggler and his nefarious cockatoo, Nigel (Clement).
WHO'S IT FOR? The film is going for a general audience of adults and children.
EXPECTATIONS: I thought the trailers looked cute, but I've been kind of hit or miss with Blue Sky Studios. The first few Ice Age films were great, but I haven't really enjoyed anything else.
Jesse Eisenberg as Blu (voice): If you've seen The Social Network or Zombieland, you know Eisenberg's distinctive voice. He plays Blu as a neurotic parrot, which isn't unexpected. What did surprise me was how much life he brought to the character. Blu's the most fully realized character in the film. When he's sad, you really feel for him. But then, I also think Eisenberg is underrated as an actor. Score: 7
Anne Hathaway as Jewel (voice): I like Hathaway, but Jewel's kind of a dud. She's an amalgam of every romantic comedy heroine ever but lacks any distinctive characteristics. I get that it's Blu's movie, but couldn't she have some personality? Hathaway tries, but it's kind of a lost cause. Score: 5
Jemaine Clement as Nigel (voice): Nigel's the real villain of the film, and Clement plays him as a nasty jerk. But he's a little too much of a bad guy, he's not likable for most of the film, except during his musical number. The song "Pretty Bird" is very Flight of the Conchords and the highlight of the film. Too bad Nigel wasn't a little more... fun. Score: 6
George Lopez as Rafael the Toucan (voice): Rafael is the trusted ally of Blu and shepherds him around town. Lopez actually has a good voice for this sort of thing, he's very expressive. But Rafael, like so many others just isn't that well developed. Score: 6
TALKING: Pretty standard stuff. The only thing missing is that there really aren't enough jokes. The best lines came from the other caged birds that the smugglers were trying to sell. I don't know who did the "I'm a pretty bird" bit but that killed me. Score: 5
SIGHTS: The film looks nice, and it's very colorful. There's just nothing really show stopping. Between Disney, Pixar and the recently released and stunningly animated Rango, I've got really high expectations now. Probably the best looking scene was the opening scene, with all the animals singing in the rain forrest. Score: 6
SOUNDS: This film's a musical, but the songs are a mixed batch. They tend to lean toward Brazilian music, like samba and bossanova. Jamie Foxx's bossanova song was pretty good. Nigel's song/rap was the highlight of the film. But the big music spectacle featuring will.i.am and Jamie Foxx really took me out of the whole film. It's autotuned and a little too Black Eyed Peas to fit in this movie. It felt like really crappy pandering. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: The aforementioned "Pretty Bird" where Nigel lays out his life story. The style is reminiscent of Flight of the Conchords' "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenocerous".
ENDING: You know how it will end pretty much from the first moments of the film. Everyone gets what they want.
QUESTIONS: Are Blue Macaws really almost extinct? (Just went to Wikipedia, apparently there isn't just a "Blue" Macaw.) Was this film originally intended to be a musical or were the songs just shoehorned in later? Why is will.i.am in this?
REWATCHABILITY: If you're a kid, you will absolutely want to rewatch this. As an adult, not so much.
Rio is a perfectly serviceable kids movie. I had high hopes from the preview, but ended up a little disappointed. The things that worked (Eisenberg and Lopez's voice acting, some of the songs) were very appealing. But the whole just didn't stack up. My biggest frustration was how the film didn't really work as a musical. Whether on Broadway or in a cartoon, musicals feature a specific structure, and one of the main points is that there's always a big finale during the third act, but that doesn't happen here. There's a happy song after the fact, but it's kind of an afterthought. Also, the will.i.am number which is clearly meant to make the film accessible doesn't fit in with the other songs. It's not a showstopper in a good sense.
Mind you, this is an adult's review. If you have a young kid, by all means go see it. But maybe keep your hopes low.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10