I did not see the first Rio film (2011), but I generally heard good things about it. So I was hoping the sequel would be at least entertaining. Rio 2 certainly stacks the deck with a range of voice talent – something most animated films do these days. Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Bruno Mars, Jermaine Clement, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, Tracy Morgan, Andy Garcia, Kristen Chenoweth, and Amandla Stenberg all lend their voices to the film as the old cast returns, along with new additions. A good film a good cast does not always make, however.
Blu (Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway), two of the last Spix Macaws, are living the protected good life in Rio with their three kids. When they hear a report that more of their kind have been spotted in the Amazon, Jewel convinces the awkward Blu that searching them out would be the getaway their family needs. Their friends (Lopez, Foxx, and will.i.am) tag along for the adventure.
Spoiler alert – Nigel (Clement) didn’t die in the first film and he wants revenge. With the help of an ant eater whose name I didn’t catch, and Gabi (Chenoweth), a poison dart frog tragically in love with him, the dramatically evil white cockatoo follows the blue family into the wilds of the rainforest. That’s the first set of antagonists.
It turns out that Jewel’s family and friends also managed to survive the human-caused disaster that was thought to have wiped out the species, and they’re hiding out in the deepest part of the jungle. Finding them puts Blu in an awkward spot – as is his specialty – as he tries to live up to the father in law’s (Garcia) expectations and compete with a suave old flame (Mars). That’s the second set of antagonists.
Meanwhile, conservationists Linda and Tulio are up against an illegal logging operation headed right towards the birds’ new home. Run by a maniacal do-badder who thinks tree huggers are the lowest scum of the earth, the operation threatens everything. That’s the third set of antagonists.
As you can probably deduce, this film suffers from the Spiderman 3 syndrome of stuffing too many bad guys and subplots into a sequel. For all that’s going on, it ends up feeling like not much at all. The story jumps back and forth from one uninspired and derivative plot point to the next. The whole thing is the stale result of a cookie cutter production. It tries so hard to be energetic and entertaining without trying. Musical numbers are thrown in willy nilly, breaking things up in a jarring fashion while the plot plays out in overly familiar manner.
This is Fern Gully with birds, and a bit of Avatar thrown in to try give in a modern update. The end scene, in fact, seems completely ripped from one of the battles of James Cameron‘s environmental space opera. Complete with blue warriors and trees being exploded with bombs, it’s quite familiar looking. There is almost nothing here you haven’t seen before, in better form. The one exception is Chenoweth’s Gabi. I would be more than willing to see a film simply about this supporting character. She seems the only one to not simply be phoning in the performance and it’s original, quirky, and just a tad disturbing. That one bright spot is not nearly enough to save this bland kid flick though.
Usually an animated movie like this at least looks nice. Nothing in this film stands out – least of all the 3D – despite gobs of opportunities as Carnival routines and flocks of feathered friends burst upon the screen. The Lion King did it better years ago.
I suspect that even children will leave this one without feeling that entertained. Unless you take issue with “humans bad, nature good” environmental message, there’s not much here to offend or challenge. For the most part, it’s just clean family friendly entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it remembers the entertainment part. It’s more like clean family friendly bland preoccupation. Skip it and rent Frozen or go see The Lego Movie again instead.
Mrs. Hamster says:
My rating: Two out of five hats
Rio 2 flies into 3,948 theaters in 2D and 3D, April 11