I don’t know if it says more about me… or more about the state of movies in April… but I’ve seen nothing but G rated movies animal-centric movies surrounded by young kids and obliging parents… myself being the latter. Fortunately, Rio is far and away the best of the bunch.
The story begins with a raucous song and a festival of color and feather in the jungle as we focus in on a tiny baby blue macaw in the hollow of a tree watching and dancing as he sees other baby birds being dropped from their nests and taking their first flights… and he follows suit. At this point, a few seconds in, I was already smiling at the stunning and vivid animation and 3D rendering. As the parrots and tropical birds flew in dizzying swoops and circles you are there with them. Gorgeous. Back to the story… when our little blue hero falls to the forest floor the song and party are immediately halted as cages and nets descend on the little aviary slice of heaven. The camera moves from jungle… to cage… to overturned crate… to the arms of an adorable little girl who’s life we see unfold over the course of fifteen years and her devotion and love for this wonderful blue Spix macaw.
Voiced by Jesse Eisenber, Blu… the blue macaw… comes off perfectly as the neurotic housebroken pet of Linda… Leslie Mann… the nebbish owner of the Blue Macaw Bookstore… the little girl. She and Blu are one day paid a visit by a Brazilian ornithologist who informs Linda that Blu is the last remaining male of his species and he wants to mate him with a female they have back in Rio de Janeiro. At this point in most modern animated films there is an attempt to slip in a few jokes for the adults… and yes, there are a couple regarding the mating process once they do arrive in Rio… but overall I believe it was handled very well. What I mean by that is that I never felt uncomfortable sitting there with my two girls as I have during other animated “kids” movies. We are of course introduced to Jewel, the lovely lone female voiced by Anne Hathaway… and all she wants to do is escape.
As you can well imagine… they do… and adventure ensues. As the villain, Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords does a great job playing Nigel, the evil aged cockatoo. Helping a trio of idiotic animal smugglers, Nigel enlists the aid of a band of pickpocketing monkeys that reminded me of the penguins in Madagascar. I won’t go any further into the plot since it was actually a pleasure allowing the story to unfold. Early on we are given the plot of “will he mate and save the species?”… we get a “will they escape the smugglers?”… we end up meeting a group of other birds voiced by Jamie Foxx, Will.i.am and George Lopez… even a dog played by Tracy Morgan… and most importantly, “will Blu learn how to fly?” And yes… wedged in there for a couple more plot lines are “will Linda and the Brazilian ornithologist Tulio couple up?” and “look, sad poor Brazilian boy have internal moral debate between crime and doing the right thing”.
Yes… this movie hits almost every stereotypical image we have of Rio de Janeiro…. more shots of Christ the Redeemer than you can shake a parrot at (best scene for 3D however was being on a hang glider circling the statue… that was quite awesome)… Carnival… slums… orphans… big asses in skimpy costumes (yet very tame and sanitized)… thieving monkeys… and visual beauty. This is where the movie succeeds on all counts… it portrays Rio in a glistening and spotless light. I have not been to Brazil… after seeing this I want to. From everything I’ve heard of Brazil… the movie cleans things up a bit, but for an hour and a half I felt the warmth of a tropical sun and I appreciated that.
There are times when being a parent means having to suffer through crappy entertainment for the sake of making them happy… and even at the worst of times it is still worth it if it actually brings the intended giggles and smiles… but occasionally we are granted a reprieve from crap and are pleasantly surprised by a good movie. Rio definitely fits into that latter category. A fantastic story from beginning to end, it was a well spent afternoon and well spent dollars. The animation is delightful and the 3D has incredible depth of field at times… treat the kids to trip down south and see this movie.
Did someone say Samba?
Cornelius J. Blahg