5 May

Title: Rio
Carlos Saldanha
Writers: Don Rhymer, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia and Sam Harper, based on a story by Carlos Saldanha, Earl Richey Jones and Todd Jones
Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, George Lopez, Jemaine Clement, Leslie Mann, Tracy Morgan,, Jamie Foxx, Rodrigo Santoro, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch, Bebel Gilberto
MPAA Rating: 
PG, mild off color humor
96 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 

Carlos Saldanha has been a solid weapon for Blue Sky Studios and Fox, the guy co-directed Ice Age and Robots as well as directed both the Ice Age sequels, and now here he is tackling a story that would see him direct an animated version of his hometown: Rio. And, really, one of the reasons why Rio is such sensational fun is the fact that it’s based in Rio de Janeiro, a city that gives the film a truly colorful world to play with which really heightens its look like crazy and goes along well with the voice cast, who all provide some very funny performances.

I guess it’s impossible to see an animated film and not compare it, in one way or another, to Pixar films. And even though this one doesn’t really have the genius storytelling that Pixar seemingly provides without a fault (though Cars was a minor slip-up in some ways), it does provide a pretty impeccable aesthetic to love. I just think that if Pixar’s films are the animated films adults will love just as much, if not way more, as the kids, then Rio at least is a film adults will have no problem watching. The story may be decidedly predictable, but at least they back it up with a stunning palette of colors that capture the spirit of Brazil amazingly with their portrayals of the vibrant energy the country has, whether it’s their beaches or their carnavals, this one is terrific at capturing that buzzing energy, which is complemented by the fact that the soundtrack is insanely fun and adds to the whole effect of Rio.

Some people may leave Rio feeling as though it was just an overstuffed film, because at times it does feel like it’s just stretching itself like crazy to go all out in every single scene in order not to lose your attention. And that’s partly true, and it’s because it doesn’t have a story with enough heart and originality to let it have the luxury of taking a slow moment, or introducing a pensive and very deep scene, like the Pixar movies do. But at least Rio‘s not like the subpar animated films we’ve seen because it doesn’t give up, but instead just amps up its arsenal of fun to make us not notice that it doesn’t have that killer of a story. And for quite a few moments here, it really does work.

It’s cool to see an animated film make a foreign country its setting, especially when it’s in South America which is where I’m from, not only because it obviously increases the commercial appeal of the movie, which has been evident in the $370 million Rio has already made some three weeks since its release, but also because it widens the things they can play with, especially when they base it on a country with such vibrant life and attitude as Brazil, which I’m guessing is where Mr. Saldanha’s presence as the director really paid off, as the film is so evidently in love with the country, and rightfully so.

Rio tells the story of Blu, a domesticated blue macaw living in Minnesota with an owner voiced by the awesome Leslie Mann. And Blu just so happens to be the last remaining blue macaw on earth and so a bird expert is excited when he seems to have found the perfect mate for him in a female blue macaw voiced by Anne Hathaway. However, Blu is just totally used to living a domesticated life so the trip to Brazil is full of unexpected surprises to him, especially after he encounters exotic bird smugglers, which in his attempt to escape them, force him to experience the culture of the country, make unlikely friends and, most importantly, learn to fly. All of this is voiced to perfection by Jesse Eisenberg, who we all know has the fidgety and neurotic voice tailor-made to fit the anxious macaw.

And it’s all really well done here, I can’t do enough to express just how incredible it all feels just because of the amazing array of colors in display here, as well as the musical side of it all which, done to Sérgio Mendes’ music, make for some very entertaining and really nicely animated dance sequences in the carnaval. As a love letter to his hometown, Mr. Saldanha has done something really beautiful.

I love animation and this year has already given us the extraordinary Rango, which this one is unfortunately not as great as, and I can’t hope enough that Pixar’s 2011 release, Cars 2, is better than the film it spawns from. As for Rio, I don’t think that it has enough heart or just sheer plot to be one of those kid-oriented animated films that also do wonders to work as an adult-oriented flick. Because the fact is that the film has pretty much no story, just from that paragraph in which I explained the basic gist of the story you could probably predict what it would be all about, with Ms. Hathaway’s bold and confident macaw at first having some pretty excellent banter with Mr. Eisenberg’s uneasy macaw and then having that friction and clash turn into obvious love.

That story works wonders as one to keep this one, if you’ll pardon the pun, flying by in a breeze, but they don’t really add to it any real substance to get this one to the same level as some of the great animated films we’ve seen in the past few years, which is why I can’t bring myself to grade this one in the A-range. But still, for a film to go watch with kids you could do so much worse than taking them to Rio, it looks sensationally great on-screen and has a voice cast that will have you laughing all the way through if you can ignore the fact that the plot is really slim, which, if you just focus on the vibrant colors and music, won’t be that hard to do.

Grade: B+


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