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 own successes. Its sixth film “RIO” is another attempt to get a piece of that pie; with the director of “Ice Age”, Carlos Saldanha, “Blue Sky” seems poised to deliver another animated success filled with some musical numbers, fluid and bright animation, and an excellent voice cast.
A highly domesticated Spix’s Macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is highly dependent on his owner, a young woman named Linda (Leslie Mann with an awesome Midwestern accent). Blu hasn’t even learned how to fly, and is content with the easy life of bird who lives in a bookstore. However, an ornithologist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) has found Blu and proposes an arrangement where Blu and Linda can travel to Brazil to help propagate Blu’s species. Reluctant, Linda agrees to travel to Brazil to pair up Blu with a sassy girl blue macaw named Jewel (Anne Hathaway). But things go awry, Blu and Jewel find themselves in the hands of some exotic bird smugglers. Now the two must co-exist, as Jewel looks for the freedom of flight and Blu becoming totally terrified of his surroundings. Thankfully, they befriend a Toco Toucan called Rafael (George Lopez), a pair of party-loving birds (Jaime Fox and Will.I.am) and Luis (Tracy Morgan), the drooling bulldog that they may be the key for Blu to reunite with Linda and Jewel to fly to freedom. But the black market bird dealers have a nasty, mean cockatoo called Nigel (Jemaine Clement) who is hot on their trail….
“Rio” follows a very simple formula and honestly there is nothing new to see here save for the different energetic experience brought about by its execution. Director Saldanha is on very familiar ground here and he knows how to make an animated film whose aim is to entertain the entire family and he does. The film has similar themes of ‘coming of age’, of friendship and family, but what is different is the way the film is executed. He keeps the themes of personal triumph at a minimum, while he brings forth a very fun and energetic pace that exudes that playful, carnival-like ambiance. The focus of the film is more on the journey, as Blu gets to know his roots, the definition of freedom and how he finds new friends and a potential lover.
What I truly enjoyed was the way the screenplay and the direction took focus on cultural contrasts and how one can learn from the other. The question, who would have the better chances of survival, the one who has been caged for most of his life or one who was born free to roam and explore? Each one has their different points of view and different approaches to solving an issue. Blu may seem dumb to the rest of his feathered companions, but he knows tricks Jewel doesn’t and vice versa. The film also brings forth a priceless message of ‘working together’ and to always ‘go for it’, to listen to your heart while your mind shows you the way. There is also a subtle theme of knowing when to let go and of sacrifice.
The cinematography was marvelous and the set designs very impressive. From the snowy streets of Minnesota, we are taken to the sun-filled, brightly lit neighborhood of Brazil and the colors of Rio De Janiero. The direction was also methodical, as Saldanha also remembers to expose the slums of this country. The delightful animation brings forth the atmosphere of merriment, the dazzling lights and perfect bird-eye view of the landscape and cities of Brazil. To add some more merriment and fun, animal behavior are also touched as seen with the thieving marmosets who are also Nigel’s thugs and the drooling Luis adds for more fun as he desperately wants to join his partying bird-buddies. The direction keeps the film smooth and yet has that touch of frenetic tone that keeps the film moving at a brisk pace. The zany energy is charming despite the fact that the film’s plot is built on formula.
It also helps when the film is helped along with a capable voice cast. Eisenberg and Hathaway make for a bizarre and yet fitting pair, as they portray two ‘not-so-in-love’ birds. They appear frenzied in the beginning, but as soon as they settle, the two begin to form a chemistry and I could believe what they were set up for. Clement was also very effective as the villain; he was charismatic, snarky and fun as he even did a musical number. Clements gave the film a needed boost in charming, eccentric wit in the film. Leslie Mann was amazing as the estranged bird owner; Mann got the right beat to make the viewer feel sorry and at the same time be awed by Linda’s bootie-shaking in a parade.
“Rio” is not the type of animated film that breaks new ground. But what it lacked in innovation and inventiveness, it more than makes up for it because of its execution and arrangement. It generates an amusing, upbeat mood and infectious energy that is just joy for everyone of all ages. I liked its riotous atmosphere as a bunch of crazy birds engage in slapstick humor, a bootie-shaking ambiance and beautiful scenery with exploding colors, all the while giving us a valuable moral message. Nope, you don’t need to even see this in 3D to enjoy it.
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 … more
*** 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 … more
Unlike industry moguls Pixar and DreamWorks, Blue Sky Studios hasn’t been quite as versatile in their subject-matter when it comes to pumping out computer generated animated feature films. Most people are aware of their ever-growing Ice Age franchise but do keep in mind that these are the guys behind Robots, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, the forthcoming Epic and Charles M Shultz’s long overdue Peanuts CG film. In short these guys have certainly been keeping busy! … more
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 … more
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 … more