Thursday, April 10, 2014

REVIEW: Rio 2 3D

Rio 2

Jesse Eisenberg,
Anne Hathaway


April 11, 2014

Carlos Saldanha

20th Century Fox,
Blue Sky Studios

1 hour 41 minutes



Three years ago, 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios brought audiences around the world "Rio," a movie about the only male bird in an otherwise extinct species who must travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to mate with the only female left of his kind.  Of course shenanigans ensued, and audiences everywhere flocked (no pun intended) to see it, making it a surprise hit.  Three years later, we have the unnecessary sequel to an otherwise decent and cute movie.  And sure enough, the sequel is exactly what the first one was: decent and cute.  Aside from the many predictable moments, unfunny jokes, and mediocre "tree-saving" storyline, I thought "Rio 2" was a sweet enough movie that will definitely hold little kids over for a while, as well as put some smiles on the faces of parents.

The story of "Rio 2" picks up almost exactly where the first "Rio" left off: Blue and Jewel are happy, they have three kids, and the music is alive in Rio De Janeiro.  However, the lives of the new family are about to be changed when Blue and Jewel find out that their race might not be near-extinction after all.  In fact, an entire colony of Blue Macaws might be living in the jungles of the Amazon out of sight from human eyes.  So the birds fly out to the Amazon to find the rest of their kind, only to find that Jewel's father is the head of the though to be extinct colony.  While all seems great at the Amazon, Blue isn't so sure that he's ready to let go of Rio and his old life quite yet.

Just like with the first "Rio," the animation is extremely gorgeous to look at and the soundtrack is catchy and very energetic.  While not worth seeing in 3D, the animation is still nice enough where it'd be really nice to see it on the big screen.  While, in terms of quality, Blue Sky doesn't always thrive in the storytelling and joke department, I will say that they know how to make a good looking animated movie.  As for the songs, all of them are very fun to listen to.  From the movie's opening number sung by Janelle Monáe to the hilarious rendition of "I Will Survive" by Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenowith, the music has the audience dancing in their seats and a big smile on people's faces throughout.

As for the voice work in the film, there's nothing special here.  Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and the rest of the cast are just fine, and aren't really anything special.  I'd say that if there was anyone in the film who actually kind of stood out from the rest, it would be Jemaine Clement and Kristen Chenowith.  Both were very entertaining in the movie, and both shared possibly the best scenes in the film.  But then again, there weren't that many scenes that were particularly memorable, and that can be blamed on Director Carlos Saldanha and his three screenwriting partners, including the late Don Rhymer.

My biggest gripe with the screenplay of this movie is that it offers absolutely nothing new to the table, and instead gives us every formulaic plot point that's been done in nearly every animated movie out there.  These plot points range from the "hero losing a game for the hero's team and becoming a disgrace to said team" cliché, the "father doesn't approve of his daughter's male boyfriend/husband/fiancé" cliché, and even a subplot about tearing down the Amazon rainforest.  While this aspect of the screenplay really didn't bother me too much, I just wish that Blue Sky would learn from Pixar and DreamWorks that originality is keen in making a great movie.  Instead, they're only focusing on rehashed story lines and dumb messages along with the colorful animated characters.  Luckily, this wasn't that big a flaw for me, as I've sort of gotten used to this type of product from Blue Sky.

While "Rio 2" isn't that great a movie, there are still enough enjoyable moments to recommend this to families who are craving a decent family movie.  The animation is gorgeous, and the songs are catchy enough to make you smile and dance a little bit in your seats.  The voice work is fine, but nobody gives a performance that's especially memorable.  And the story, well, it's a combination of a series of clichéd stories with an eco-friendly message but now with the colorful characters of "Rio."  There are certainly better kids movies out there, like "Muppets Most Wanted" and "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," but "Rio 2" isn't the worst thing your family could see.  If you enjoyed the first "Rio," chances are you'll enjoy the latest installment.  And if not you, then definitely your kids or young companions who travel with you to the theater will be having a ball with it.



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