By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Colorful, visually gorgeous and fun, this sequel to the 2011 family movie doesn’t have anything fresh to offer story-wise. However, because of its upbeat, endearing and amusing characters and moderately funny humor, Rio 2 should make for a fun family trip to the cinema. I actually had not seen the first movie until the night prior to the press screening, and found it passable as well. These two films both rehash romance and fish-out-of-water cliches among others, but this probably will not matter to the young kids wanting to see this film. As for their adult chaperones, they will find moderate entertainment in this film, but nothing outstanding or exceptional. On the other hand, they could do much worse and be forced by their children to sit through a painfully bad cartoon. Thankfully, this film manages to ride the cusp just above mediocrity.
Rio 2 continues the story of macaw birds Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway), and their children Carla (Rachel Crow), Bia (Amandia Stenberg), and Tiago (Pierce Gagnon). Blu and his family decide to travel from their home in Rio de Janeiro to the Amazon rainforest where more of their endangered species is discovered. After their arrival, Jewel discovers that her father Eduardo (Andy Garcia) and other members of her tribe, once believed to be dead, have managed to survive and thrive in the forest. Because Blu has spent his entire life as a domesticated bird, he must prove his worth as Jewel’s husband to Eduardo, who’d prefer that she would pair with a tough and confident macaw who knows how to survive the wild conditions of the forest. To make things even more difficult for Blu, his old nemesis Nigel (Jemaine Clement) has plans to seek vengeance for the injuries he incurred in the first movie.
Writer/director Chris Saldanha and co-writers, the late Don Rhymer and Yoni Brenner offer a descent sequel that is just as likable as the first installment. Normally, I would lambaste the producers for taking fluffy cliche material and releasing it in cinemas, but the gorgeous animation simply deserves an audience on the big screen. The main reason to spend some money to see this feature in theaters is mostly aesthetic. As for the 3D effects, nothing really stands out about it–no pun intended. 2D is the way to go and definitely is a less expensive one. The story never really frustrates or annoys. Saldanha and his writers obviously put some heart into the movie, but still could not avoid going a formulaic route. Still, the characters still carry over the charm and wit that made them so likable in the first movie.
Eisenberg, Hathaway, Clement as well as George Lopez, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Will I Am, Jamie Foxx, and Tracy Morgan all wonderfully reprise their roles from the first film, but some of the new additions really add to the film’s charm. Joining the Rio veterans are Miguel Ferrer, Andy Garcia, Bruno Mars and the uber-talented Kristin Chenoweth. Chenoweth steals several scenes as Gabi, a poison dart frog who worships the ground that Nigel walks and is willing to help him carry out his plans for revenge. Her energetic speaking voice, excellent comic timing and her lovely and incredible singing make her character really stand out.
As for the film as a whole, it will probably never really stand out among the several animated features that get released annually. Regardless, this movie should go over big with young children, and it’s actually not all that bad. Therefore, adults should find some enjoyment in it as well. With Rio and Rio 2, Carlos Saldanha shows he can make descent family films, I’d love to see what he can do with an absolutely amazing script. Hopefully, audiences and I will get to see that someday.