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!
Amidst all of these projects, Blue Sky released Rio back in 2011; a vibrant piece that forever silenced naysayers who claimed the studio didn’t have access to the incredible color pallets of the competition. Costing an estimated $90-mil, Rio comes in at a runtime of 96-minutes and wears an appropriate G-rating.
The story follows Blu, a wild-born domesticated blue macaw thought to be the last of his breed, taken from Rio de Janeiro and then deposited in Minnesota only to head back to Brazil when an ornithologist believes that a potential mate has been secured in the wild.
On an existential level there’s some ironic tragedy in the concept of removing a wild animal from nature, domesticating it so that it is completely dependent upon human care, then returning it to the wild where it’s unable to perform such basic survival tactics as fly but not to worry, Rio is a lot more about having fun then it is environmentalism agendas (thankfully).
Add to this some well casted voice talent: Jesse Eisenberg as Blu; Anne Hathaway as his love interest Jewel; Jamie Foxx and will.i.am as a streetwise and musical canary and cardinal duo; George Lopez as a local toucan; Tracy Morgan as a slobbering bulldog; and Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords” fame stepping in as the villainous cockatoo Nigel. The casting is flawless in their respective roles and add a great deal of energy to the visuals, which in case I haven’t mentioned, are crisp, bright, and bouncy.
The opening musical number, featuring a rainbow stream of various birds of paradise in choreographed flight sets the tone of things to come. While the film flirts with the concept of being a dedicated musical, I am pleased to report that the music here does nothing but add to the party-like vibe of the affair. Everything from some original salsa-flavored tunes to Lionel Richie’s “Say you, Say Me” to one of Jemaine Clement’s hilarious rap numbers (straight out of his book as the character Hip-hop-opotamus).
Separating this from a strictly talking-animals affair however is the brilliantly intertwined B-story involving Blu’s adopted mom Linda and said ornithologist (the nerdy but goodhearted Tulio) falling for one another as well. Had I been charged with the job of naming this film, I believe something like “Of Nerds and Birds” would have been in order.
In all I found Rio to be a magnificent entry into the competitive CG market from Blue Sky, perhaps their strongest, most fleshed out to date in fact. I’m apparently not alone in this assessment either as a sequel (Rio 2) is on Blue Sky’s release schedule for 2014 (smack dab between Epic and Peanuts). An interesting side note- it’s oft rumored that Rio was actually responsible for Pixar having cancelled a film they were putting together called “newt” due to plot similarities. You know you’re doing something right when you can get the undisputed leader of the industry to stop in their tracks!
What did you think of this review?