By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The city of Rio is best known for its carnival and the revelers of this six-day party can certainly live it up. It’s such a shame the movie Rio 2, a tale about a domesticated blue macaw learning how to live life freely, cannot live up to the same name and previous hype. It tries — especially with all its high-spirited musical numbers — but it fails when the concepts it tries to extol on are far too formulaic.
Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) has a happy life with Jewel (Anne Hathaway) in the city. But when their owners Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) discover a flock of their kind deep in the jungles of the Amazon, they decide to track the humans down and find that life is not as golden. Jewel’s father, Eduardo (Andy Garcia) does not take an immediate liking to Blu, and with even more enemies to come, just which antagonist becomes important is muddled in a quagmire of who wants to climb up the ladder of being an alpha male. The story may be too complex for a young mind to handle and even for an adult, they may ask why is the message of saving Earth’s rain forests not engrained better in this film.
This film had the potential to bring to the world how endangered the Amazon rain forest is.
Perhaps the reason this idea was not prevalent is that Don Rhymer, the screenwriter of the first film, passed during the conception of this sequel. Whatever ideas he had in mind were left incomplete. It was up to his successors — a team of Carlos Kotkin, Jenny Bicks and Yoni Brenner — to pick up from where he left off. They did not do a good job of putting all the pieces together.
It’s hard to care for Blu’s rival, Roberto (Bruno Mars) when Nigel (Jemaine Clement) the cockatoo is plotting his revenge. In the first film, he got mangled up by smashing into a plane. Nigel’s scheming is far more fun to follow when he has a poison dart frog Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth) and an anteater Charlie (a silent character) as part of his new entourage. Charlie is basically this movie’s version of Scrat from Ice Age and Gabi is the only breath of fresh air in this film. Her fondness for Nigel is hilarious, and she has the best number to listen to throughout the film. Her musical solo could easily be turned into a hilarious music video about why a toad loves a bird. That quality gives Rio 2 a nice fractured fairy tale quality to watch than a formulaic plot about saving the last of the macaws from their grove that’s about to be invaded by man.
In a film that’s basically about humanity/domestication versus Nature, the emphasis is just not there. Viewers are watching three narratives that does not particularly come together very well. Children will be entertained by the lavish visuals and CGI enthusiasts will marvel at the level of detailing going on. But for anyone else expecting a decent story, what’s presented here has been seen before — especially from the Ice Age and Happy Feet series.
The 3D presentation is nice but it does not go too far to have the feathers fly out of the screen. If only the cinematography managed to achieve that with better oomph, then just maybe this film can prove to tickle the funny bone.
2 Stars out of 5