Directed by Carlos Saldanha
Written by Don Rhymer & Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia & Sam Harper
The latest effort from the animation studio that brought us the Ice Age film, Blue Sky, is a cultural and colorful tale about birds. Hollywood stars Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg team up as the last two Blue Macaw’s in the world. They are both originally from Rio in Brazil, but at a young age Blu (Eisenberg) is picked up by smugglers but lost in Minnesota while being transported. He is found by a little girl who grows up with the bird and comes to cherish him as a house pet. Through all his years, the bird never learns to fly.
Meanwhile, in Rio, Tulio has the last remaining female Blue Macaw, Jewel (Hathaway), and when he seeks out Linda (Leslie Mann), Blu’s owner, Jewel and Blu meet to assure the survival of their species. They must struggle through their dislike of each other, the smugglers looking to steal them, and some friendly and unfriendly fellow birds along the way. The rest of the voice cast is rounded out by George Lopez, will.i.am., Jaime Foxx, Jemaine Clement and Rodrigo Santoro.
The strongest aspect of the film must be the visual. The animation is a beautiful computer rendering of the exotic world of Rio, especially during the famous Carnivale. The location is a big sell due to the many wonderfully vibrant colors the animators are able to work with; it really makes for a pretty great movie to look at. And the main Carnivale scene is breathtakingly beautiful. Another strength would be the songs which were incorporated into the film. Sung by will.i.am and Jamie Foxx, accomplished vocalist, the songs are quite catchy. However, the songs could also be seen as a weakness in the film.
I call them a weakness, despite their musical value, because they were used so sparingly and awkwardly, that whenever the characters broke out in song it didn’t feel right. There are only maybe three songs in the film and whenever they occur it takes you out of the main narrative of the film, distracting the viewer from the exciting story that is being told. Also, I thought the story was just a medium for the filmmakers to present a travel book interpretation of Rio, though they did show a slight dark side of the city. But for a dark look on Rio, I suggest the film City of God instead. The voice cast was solid and Eisenberg has the perfect personality/perception to play Blu here. And even if they did use Spanish speaking actors to portray the Portuguese speaking characters from Rio, I can forgive them and say that Rio was an average animated film with some great visuals and a somewhat bland story. Not a complete waste of time, but don’t rush to see this one.