Blue Sky’s Rio and Rio 2 remind me a lot of Disney’s Bolt. They are entertaining to watch, pleasant to look at, but in the end kind of forgettable. That said, you will enjoy the experience of watching them so it is a mixed bag
In Rio we meet Blu who is a rare blue macaw living as a pet with his owner in Minnesota. He is a completely domesticated bird and does not know how to fly. Blu is voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and he is one of the many poor voicework choices in the movie. Especially once they get to Brazil the voices don’t make any sense and are forgettable. I found Eisenberg’s nasal nervous quality to be very grating so it was not a good choice.
Blu’s owner is contacted by a man from Brazil who has found another blue macaw and he is hopeful the two birds can mate and he successfully convinces the owner to bring Blu to Rio to try it out.
The girl macaw is named Jewel and is voiced by Anne Hathaway in another poor choice. If a bird is supposed to be exotic living in Rio is Anne Hathaway the exotic voice that comes to mind? Not for me. Really George Lope and Rodrigo Santoro are the only voice actors in the cast who give it any kind of Portugese flair.
The rest of the cast we have Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, Jermaine Clement, Leslie Mann, etc.
Of all the voices the only one I liked was Jermaine Clement as the bad Cockatoo named Nigel. He is very funny and reminded me of Tim Curry.
The basic plot is pretty standard cat and mouse chase game with Jewel and Blu getting birdnapped by Nigel’s owner and the awkward Blu getting used to the tropical environment, bickering and romancing with Jewel, and learning to fly. It’s all very predictable but in an entertaining way.
The colors and the light in the film are gorgeous and it looks beautiful throughout. The animation quality holds up to any other studio.
But the music I could have done without. Not a single number stood out or was memorable. I really didn’t think the story needed to be a musical, especially with a lead like Eisenberg who isn’t exactly known as a singer.
Some of the music does give a latin feel but this could have been accomplished with a the score and not the extended musical numbers that don’t do anything for the story and are just kind of average.
So of course our bickering couple end up in love and going back to their owners to live together (who also fall in love at the end of the movie).
The strongest part of the movie is Nigel. He is very funny and an intense villain for this kind of story. I could have used even more of him and less of the singing.
Like I said, Rio is a perfectly adequate movie. It looks great and clips along pretty well and kids will enjoy some of the humor (although they might get a little bored in some of the extended songs or the underwhelming action) but I think they will probably like it.
A warning to parents- there is a scene at Carnival where the human owner voiced by Leslie Mann is wearing an extremely skimpy outfit for a kids movie. It felt rather garish to me.
But other than that there is nothing offensive or crass. Rio has a sweetness about it and it is an ok flick.
Overall Grade- C+
So then we got Rio 2 this summer and I’m afraid to say it but I thought it was weaker than the original.
To start with it has all the weaknesses of the original with weak voice cast (although a hip hop influence with Bruno Mars and Will I Am was a fun addition), predictable plot and underwhelming musical numbers. It still looks fabulous but it doesn’t really surprise the viewers or do anything new. It all feels very tired even though it looks great.
In this story Blue and Jewel have baby birds and they live in a life of pancakes and ipods and Jewel is worried they will have forgotten their roots. She yearns for the wild and through a variety of circumstances they end up in Rio looking for their owners (who have married since the original).
The big mistake this movie makes is it draws each step out too long and it is very cluttered. Where the strength of the original was Nigel, in this film you have Nigel for brief spurts than a Big Boss who wants to tear down the rainforest (yawn of a villain), and a red macaw clan who don’t like the blue macaws. They even face the red macaws in an extended soccer scene.
Nigel is a theater man in Rio 2 and not quite the villain of the original. He’s still my favorite character in the Rio movies but I wish they had just focused on him instead of the other storylines and villains which are much more predictable.
Jewel finds out there are other living blue macaws and they eventually find a massive colony in the amazon (they must have not been looking very hard to miss that many blue macaws!). It turns out it is the flock Jewel grew up in and it is ran by her father
Jewel likes being in the wild and Blu hates it. Blu’s new father in law thinks he’s a wimp. There’s a long soccer match in the middle and a ton of side characters and attempt at humor that doesn’t really work.
Nigel has a side character that is a little poisonous frog voiced by Kristen Chenoweth and she sings a song called Poisonous Love which feels so out of place in the movie. It’s a gorgeous operatic number and the divine Kristen of course can sing well but it does not fit the style of the movie at all. But she is a cute character and watching her fall in love with Nigel is funny.
There are so many characters we could list them all day but the George Lopez toucan who is head over heels in love with his wife bird is cute and I liked Bruno Mars as Jewel’s childhood friend and her father’s right hand bird.
So in the end, Rio 2 looks great, has some appealing characters but the songs are forgettable despite the hip-hop additions and the voicework is still a problem. But your kids will be entertained and it’s not a bad movie. You could certainly do worse with your kids. That’s for sure.
I enjoyed watching both Rio and Rio 2. They are far from perfect but the colors are bright, they look gorgeous, Nigel is a lot of fun as a villain, and the characters are engaging enough even if not on the Pixar/Disney quality level. They just need to work on simplifying the stories and making them more interesting and getting better voice talent not necessarily famous voices.
Overall Grade- C