MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Anne Hathaway as JEWEL
Jesse Eisenberg as BLU
Jemaine Clement as NIGEL
Kristin Chenoweth as GABI
Bruno Mars as ROBERTO
George Lopez as RAFAEL
Tracy Morgan as LUIZ
Leslie Mann as LINDA
Rodrigo Santoro as TULIO
Andy Garcia as EDUARDO
Jamie Foxx as NICO
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha
BY KEVIN CARR
While I thought the first “Rio” was cute, I didn’t think it was the greatest animated film of its age. There is a certain respect I have for that movie, not just because it told a cute, wholesome and entertaining story about birds trying to find their unique place in the world, but also because it was a wholly original film that wasn’t based on existing source material.
By the very nature of “Rio 2” being a sequel, it doesn’t have this charm to it because it is, in fact, based on the previous film. However, I still appreciate the fact that “Rio 2” offers a taste of something the rest of American movies aren’t delivering. This isn’t just because it relies on a foreign location or caters somewhat to the Latin American audience (because only a couple years ago, Rio de Janeiro was the cinematic destinations for everything from “Fast Five” to “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”).
Instead, the real respect I have for “Rio” and “Rio 2” is the use of music. It allows for fierce creativity in the soundtrack, developed with some innovative techniques and spotlighting musicians who may not have any American presence otherwise. It also manages to thread the needle that so many cartoons fail to do by being rich with music without becoming a corny musical that never figures out how to smoothly move from plot to musical number.
Still, “Rio 2” does suffer from the many things that make sequels challenging, including finding story for all the characters from the first one, resisting the urge to preach to the audience and coming up with an overall compelling arc that continues the more unique and cherished story from the first film.
In this movie, Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) decide to go back to their roots, taking their children on an Amazonian adventure. They pack everyone up and head into the rainforest, where they stumble upon a colony of blue macaws who happen to be Jewel’s family. While Blu struggles to fit in, a greedy developer is intent on cutting down the patch of the rainforest where the macaws call home.
Like many sequels – and particularly colorful animated sequels – do, “Rio 2” juggles a few too many things at once. On one hand, we see Blu trying to fit in (again) while he’s also trying to win the approval of Jewel’s family. At the same time, we see Jewel and Blu dealing with the challenges of being parents (and coming at it from the parent perspective, I have to say they’re not doing a very good job, and instead are raising a flock of entitled sociopaths). Finally, you have the environmental message, which becomes wearing in children’s programming when anything that involves animals must also involve a lecture on how humanity is terrible for what it does (even if the greatest impact we are told we have is to give to charities who likely pocket more than 70% of the money donated).
Sorry if I sound like a critic, but I’m endlessly frustrated at not being able to have entertainment without a side of (or an additional entree of) political and social preaching.
Still, “Rio 2” is a cute enough movie. All the characters are back, so the kids can enjoy the antics of the more humorous ones like Luiz (Tracy Morgan), Rafael (George Lopez), Nico (Jamie Foxx) and Pedro (will.i.am). And the music is pretty good, too.
Keeping with the tradition of showing some cool behind-the-scenes content and presenting some fun activities for the children watching, the Blu-ray of “Rio 2” includes a nice assortment of special features. There’s a “Rio Refresher,” which summarizes the previous film for those who forgot exactly what happened. There’s basic elements like deleted scenes, a music video, a still gallery and a short cartoon teasing the upcoming Blue Sky production of “Almost Home.”
Additional features include “Boom, Shake, Snap: The Local Sounds of Brazil,” which spotlights the development of the music with practical human-body sounds. There’s also “Birds and Beats: The Singing Talents of Rio 2” and “Nigel the Shakespearean Cockatoo and Friends.” Finally, there’s a sing-along and dance-along for the kids to enjoy, plus a look at the in-film auditions for Carnivale, which is cute if not a bit repetitive.