April 19, 2011

MOVIES: Rio (Carlos Saldanha, 2011)

Here we have the story of Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), a Brazilian blue macaw who's captured by smugglers and winds up living in Minnesota with his owner, Linda (Leslie Mann). They are visited one day by Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), who tells Linda that Blu is the last male of his species, and they need to take him back to Brazil in the hopes that he will mate with the last female.

That female is Jewel (Anne Hathaway), who's not remotely interested in nerdy little Blu. (How nerdy is he? He's never even learned to fly.) But when they are captured by smugglers (which must feel practically routine to Blu at this point), they have to work together to escape.

The voice cast also includes George Lopez, will.i.am, and Jamie Foxx as Brazilian birds who get involved in the quest; Jemaine Clement as a villainous cockatoo who aids the smugglers; and Tracy Morgan as a bulldog with a serious drool problem. Most of the cast fails to bring the level of energy that good voice acting requires; animated characters, no matter how well done, are less expressive than live people, and the voice acting has to be somewhat exaggerated to compensate. Clement comes off best, throwing himself into Nigel's evil scheming with wild abandon.

The story is a bit bland and predictable; it's quickly obvious how the parallel love stories (bird and human) are going to play out. That's not necessarily a bad thing in a kid's movie, but Rio lacks the smartness that makes a movie like Rango work on different levels for kids and parents.

The movie is at its best in its most elaborate scenes, when it gives in to the riot of color that Brazil offers. There's an opening musical number set in the jungle that is to birds what The Little Mermaid's "Under the Sea" was to fish; Foxx and will.i.am get a few musical moments of their own; and a chase scene through an elaborate parade captures the exuberant joy of Carnaval.

A mixed bag, but your kids will enjoy it, and there's enough to keep you mildly entertained, too.

No comments: