Rio (3D) film review

Given the Easter period’s emphasis on quality family time, there are sure to be many parents looking for entertainment that they, and their entire brood, can enjoy together over this holiday period. Well, look no further than Rio, the new animated comedy adventure from the makers of Ice Age. It’s very cute, and colourful, and completely harmless. And, fortunately, it’s also free of the irritating supporting cast that made the Ice Age series increasingly teeth-grating.


Rio centres on timid Blu, (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), a rare Macaw who has grown up in Minnesota as a pampered – and flightless – pet after a traumatic pouching experience as a baby. Blu, however, is the last male of his kind, and with his beloved owner Linda (Leslie Mann), he returns to his home country of Brazil to mate with feisty Jewel (Anne Hathaway), in an attempt to save their species. Together Blu and Jewel are a prime target for poachers and, chained together, they’re soon on the run in the streets and surrounding jungles of Rio. Fortunately Blu and Jewel have the aid of an assortment of feathered and furry allies because the poachers’ vicious Cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) is hot on their trail – with his posse of villainous marmosets.

Rio starts out especially strong. The best thing about the film in fact is its opening and closing music numbers, filled as they are with lush jungle greenery, beautiful tropical birds and plenty of samba spirit. Rio is definitely a far more musical movie than Ice Age, although for the most part it avoids the big Broadway-style numbers of Disney animated musicals in favour of traditional Brazilian tracks, and the hiphop teaming of will.i.am and Jamie Foxx, who voice 2 of Rio's most prominent supporting characters. Of course, one has to ask when did The Black Eyed Peas become music for the whole family? The group’s music featured prominently in kiddie-centric G-Force, G.I. Joe and, now, Rio.


Anyway, one of the other major selling points of Rio is its characterisations. The animators have nailed realistic-looking bird and dog motion without sacrificing distinct personalities for the characters. So there’s wide eyed Blu (especially adorable as a baby), bobble-eyed idiot chickens, round little fluff ball birds and Luiz the bulldog (Tracy Morgan), who is all stumpy legs and drool. Of the voice cast, everyone does good work, although you can’t help but feel Anne Hathaway is wasted. Jewel is very much a secondary character to Blu and as a result Hathaway doesn’t get to unleash her personality as much as expected.


As a 3D movie experience, Rio is nothing special. However, what the film does do very well is sell Brazil as a tourist destination. Rio is packed with stereotypes about the nation – lazy beach lifestyles, favela-dwelling streetkids, Carnival, and, of course, the representation of Brazilians as a laid-back caramel people with soccer and samba in their souls. Still, it’s all done in good spirit, and makes the city look like a vibrant, interesting place to visit.

In the end Rio is a light and fluffy – or should that be feathery? – piece of animation for the entire family. There are the expected moments of anger-fuelled misunderstanding and regret, as well as scenes of culminating triumph, but refreshingly the movie doesn’t attempt to force schmaltz, manic energy, pop culture references or stale motivational messages down the audience's throat. Solidly entertaining, amiable and undemanding. Oh, and way better than both Ice Age sequels.

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