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A movie directed by Carlos Saldanha

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I Believe I Can Fly

  • Apr 16, 2011
Star Rating:

Rio is a straightforward but exuberant animated film, brought to life in an explosion of color and infectious Latin beats – and, of course, through the process of 3D, that most unstoppable of all recent movie trends. But I won’t dwell on that. Looking at this film was a terrific experience for me; think of an extreme close-up of an artist’s palette, where oil paints are creatively being mixed together. That it employs first-rate actors as voice talents only adds to the fun, as do the stylized look of the characters, the charming plot, and the breathtaking aerial views of Rio de Janeiro, which may be computer generated but are made to look like the real thing. It’s not touristy enough to be considered a child’s first travelogue, but considering the details they tend to gloss over, that’s probably a good thing.
Jesse Eisenberg, fresh from his Oscar nominated role in The Social Network, voices Blu, a Spix’s macaw. As a baby, before he learned how to fly, he was abducted by smugglers from his native Rio and taken to the snow-covered Moose Lake, Minnesota, where he was rescued and befriended by a little girl named Linda. We then see a photo montage showing that the two became inseparable, and this should tell you everything you need to know about the girl’s social life. Now an adult, Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann) owns a bookstore, which, appropriately enough, she named after Blu – who, after all these years, still hasn’t learned how to fly. Into their lives enters a Brazilian bird scientist named Túlio (voiced by Rodrigo Santoro). He explains that Blu is the last male of his species and that, in order to repopulate the area, Blu must mate with a female macaw.

And so, Blu and Linda are flown to Rio, where Túlio and his team treat and give sanctuary to abused and neglected birds. Blu is introduced to and immediately intimidated by Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), an aggressive, human-hating macaw who isn’t interested in procreation so much as escaping. One night, the shelter is raided; all the birds are stolen and brought to the hideout of a trio of smugglers, who chain Blu and Jewel together at their ankles. Although they both manage to escape, Blu’s inability to fly proves harrowing – and in many cases, hilarious. Their journey towards freedom sees the introduction of a number of colorful side characters, including a toucan named Rafael (voiced by George Lopez), a bulldog named Luiz (voiced by Tracy Morgan), and the main antagonist, a cockatoo named Nigel (voiced by Jemaine Clement), who works for the smugglers. There’s also a red-crested cardinal named Pedro (voiced by and a yellow canary named Nico (voiced by Jamie Foxx), who apart from the smugglers add the most levity to the story.
As for the humans, Linda and Túlio are understandably worried sick about Blu. After a night of passing out flyers, they’re approached by a homeless orphan named Fernando (voiced by Jake T. Austin), who helped the smugglers only because he needed the money. The three band together in an effort to save their beloved birds. But they have to hurry; it’s almost time for Carnivale, and the streets will be flooded with floats, dancers, and spectators. The Carnivale scenes – beautifully lit, highly choreographed, and densely packed with all sorts of visual delights – are the only ones to truly benefit from the 3D process. Apart from that, I’m going to give you the same advice I usually give when it comes to 3D movies: See it in standard 2D. Not only will you save a few dollars at the box office, you’ll also be treated to colors much brighter and a picture more in focus.

As enjoyable as this movie is, there are a few moments that made me cringe. There’s a scene, for example, in which one of the smugglers nervously approaches Nigel in an effort to feed him; he’s offered a chicken leg, which he accepts and greedily begins to eat. “Cannibal!” says the smuggler in disgust. Even within the context of a family film, this is just plain wrong. I was also weary of the moment Blu and Jewel are first taken into the smugglers’ dark, crowded storage room; this is an innately depressing scenario, and yet the visuals indicate that we’re supposed to find it funny.
But two ill-conceived scenes cannot bring down an entire movie. At least, they can’t for me. Overall, Rio is bright, clever, engaging, and an absolute pleasure to look at. Its greatest achievement may be its soundtrack; the majesty of John Powell’s score intertwines wonderfully with pulsating samba rhythms, which are evident not only in the Carnivale scenes but also in catchy musical numbers that bookend the film. We’re also treated to a few bars from Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me.” Most of the birds, Blu in particular, were compelled to start swaying their tales to the beat – and a have to admit, I did a little hip swaying as I sat in my chair. I’m under no illusions that Rio will receive nominations for its soundtrack, but outside of a Disney movie, it may be one of the best recent films to incorporate music into a narrative framework.


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April 19, 2011
Great review, Chris!  I dug this movie as well, but found my own cringe-worthy scene :P
April 19, 2011
Thanks. It's a cute movie -- nothing of substance, but bright, colorful, and funny.
April 16, 2011
Great to know! I'll be back to comment further once I've seen it, we are leaving this afternoon to watch it.
April 17, 2011
Ok, I saw it too and we have similar things to say about it. I agree about the shadowy area in the slums, it was depressing. However, I liked the way it expressed cultural differences and I guess I thought it was necessary. I am with you about Nigel eating the chicken leg though.
April 17, 2011
I had a similar reaction to a scene in The Spy Next Door, in which the kids fed their pet pig slices of bacon. I'm astounded at some of the things filmmakers think will be funny.
More Rio: The Movie reviews
review by . April 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A Aventura de um pássaro que não poder voar (The Adventure of a Bird Who Can't Fly) !
Animated Family films have never exactly impressed me, I feel that they are mostly the type of films that follow a certain formula and sticks to it. Not to say that there hasn’t been some serious successes within this genre; Pixar and Dreamworks have made a lot of profit sticking to those same formulas while changing the way those formulas were told. There is also a light-weight called “Blue Sky Studios” that want a piece of the multi-billion dollar pie, and they have had their …
review by . April 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A lighthearted tale of a small town macaw finding his wings in Rio, both literally & figuratively
Cute -- one simple word that sums up this movie.  From its storyline, to its characters and animation, Rio is just all around cute, and it's extra cool knowing that it's voiced by an all-star cast.  The story of how Blu, the macaw voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, came to be the companion of human Linda, voiced by Leslie Mann, is a really sweet one.  It shows how a very young Linda discovered him when he was just a chick.  They've been inseparable since, with Blu becoming …
review by . September 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     "Rio", the new animated film from the minds who brought us the popular "Ice Age", has a good heart and a good idea going for it. I imagine that much like another 2011 animation, "Mars Needs Moms", its concept could have gone to waste through an overly sentimental tone and a lack of depth and humor; but that is not close to what happens. Most animated films I watch end up being great, good, or very rarely bad/mediocre. Those who work in animation often have …
review by . May 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
U - 96mins - Animation/Adventure/Comedy - 8th April 2011 Rio is an animation from the same people that brought us Ice Age and so it has a fair amount to live up to. It follows the tale of a blue macaw, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) who is bird-napped as a chick and smuggled into the USA to be sold. During the move though, he falls from the back of the truck and is found by Linda (Leslie Mann) who takes him in and looks after him. The years pass by until Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), a extremely bird obsessed …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #2
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


When Blu, a domesticated macaw from small-town Minnesota, meets the fiercely independent Jewel, he takes off on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro with this bird of his dreams.
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Director: Carlos Saldanha
Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family
Release Date: 15 April 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Don Rhymer
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Blue Sky Studios, Twentieth Century Fox Animation
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"I Believe I Can Fly"
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