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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rio 2 Review: Superficial Animated Entertainment

The only mildly entertaining Rio 2 give us little to dance about. WARNING: Major Spoilers Ahead! 

Review by: Matt Cummings

Our first experience with the Rio franchise was decidedly meh - we found the movie about a lost Macau to be decent but ultimately drab entertainment, failing to keep our attention after a very cute opening. It wasn't that we hated Rio, but we soon found ourselves diverted to our tablets and other entertainment while things on screen limped along. Rio 2 doesn't give us much to dance about either, settling in on a superficial story about the environment surrounded by somewhat enjoyable comedic skits.

As Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) continues to adjust to life with Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), he and Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann) move to Rio de Janerio. There, Linda and Tulio (voiced by Rodrigo Santoro) open a wildlife habitat, while Blu and Jewel deal with their three precocious children. Soon, these foursome learn about a habitat of Macau that live deep inside the Amazonian jungle and set off to learn their whereabouts. Along the way, they face an illegal effort to destroy the jungle, threatening the lives of her long-lost father Eduardo (voiced by Andy Garcia) and old chum Roberto (voiced by Singer Bruno Mars). With the fate of the habitat on the line, Blu must decide whether to give up his old human ways in favor of protecting his own people, while Linda must learn to let him go.

Writer/Director Carlos Saldanha brings back much of the original cast, including the funny Jermaine Clement as Nigel, while adding baddies Kristin Chenoweth as a poisonous frog and Miguel Ferrer as the evil boss behind the deforestation. Clement and Chenoweth have good chemistry as they plot to undo Blu, while Jamie Foxx, Tracey Morgan and George Lopez dance and frolic their way through the jungle.

Much like its predecessor, Rio 2 is decent animated entertainment, but lacks much emotional heft. We felt the same about the Ice Age franchise, and can see 20th Century Fox Animation's mistakes repeated here. Many characters go through no growth, especially the thick-headed Jewel whose demand to Blu that he choose between his owner and her is unrealistic. She fails to understand the unique bond between him and Linda, engaging in a silly side story with Roberto that never goes anywhere. Blu's idiosyncrasies deliver most of the laughs but get a little tiring over time - the problem here is that he and Linda can't communicate beyond simple fist pumping, and so there's never a moment when the two can ever grow together. Instead, she moves to the Amazon to protect the Macau village while abandoning the Minnesota storyline established in the first film. Moreover, the suggestion that a jungle filled with animals can hold off humans from taking their land is not based on any sort of reality: once Saldanha and Don Rhymer introduce mortal danger into the mix, we're forced to look at the film in a completely different manner. The result never delivers beyond a superficial level, turning Linda and Tulio into hapless bystanders rather than powerful new protectors of the jungle.

There are a couple of bright spots here. Several of the musical numbers - especially one between Nigel and Gabi - are pretty funny. The casting is deeper than its predecessor, giving Garcia and Mars a few moments in the sun. The stellar animation features bright colors and exceptional detail on the feathers of the Macau and in the environment of the Amazonian jungle itself. But while we think a 3D experience would probably look outstanding, there are in general better options out there for kids, including Muppets Most Wanted, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and The LEGO Movie.

Rio 2 delivers only a superficial experience while attempting to make a stand about the environment. Its core story about Linda and Blu fades to be replaced by rich colors and African drum beats. Compared to other choices still in theaters, this one pales in comparison. Rio 2 is rated G and has a runtime of 101 minutes. 

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125. Please leave a comment.


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