Review: ‘Rio 2′ remembers to entertain about twice

The unreciprocated love between a cockatoo (Jemaine Clement) and a poisonous frog (Kristin Chenoweth) is one of the only amusing bits in "Rio 2." Credit: Blue Sky Studio
The unreciprocated love between a cockatoo (Jemaine Clement) and a poisonous frog (Kristin Chenoweth) is one of the only amusing bits in “Rio 2.”
Credit: Blue Sky Studio

‘Rio 2’
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Voices of: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway
Rating: G
2 (out of 5) Globes

There are some obvious positive motivations behind “Rio” and its sequel. It’s an animated cash-gobbler that seeks to draw kids’ attention toward the bottom half of the globe, exposing them to other cultures — even as it boasts the vocal work of famous Americans (including numerous big name musicians). It’s an environmental screed that doesn’t play like a screed, which is to say it’s not the woebegone “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.” That’s actually it. Good intentions don’t equal craft or entertainment value. They don’t even atone for this sequel, which exists primarily because the first one made a lot of money.

Pretty and almost entirely vacant, “Rio 2” — from 20th Century Fox’s terminally underwhelming Blue Sky Studios, of “Ice Age” infamy — hangs back with literal lovebirds: the endangered blue macaws Blu (the stammering voice of Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway, apparently) united in a preservation home. In truth this is an actual human home, where they and their spawn have gotten used to cooking pancakes and making playlists.

If this seems like anthropomorphizing gone mad, then luckily word comes that our heroes aren’t, in fact, the last two macaws — that a mess of them are still flying around deep in the dangerous Amazon, including Jewel’s relatives. The family flies away from the trappings of man to replay “Meet the Parents,” with Andy Garcia voicing the intimidating paterfamilias who doesn’t take kindly to Blu’s nebbishy, city-raised ways.

Blu’s fumbles for acceptance from the virile jungle folk are stock and thumb-twiddling, no less because Eisenberg is on nervous autopilot. He and Hathaway have no clear chemistry, in part because they almost certainly recorded their work at different times. In fact, while the colors are rainbow bright, the script is sleepy and uninspired. Even the business about a mean developer seeking to chop down parts of the Amazon basin feels less like a token lesson than just a way to burn screentime.

What does “Rio 2” (or “Rio,” for that matter) even want to be? Adults, with children or not, assume these monstrosities will placate them a little bit, namely with jokes that may or may not go over the heads of their pint-sized demographic. Every now and then “Rio 2” remembers to do this. There’s a not bad subplot about a vengeful cockatoo (Jemaine Clement), one of whose accomplices happens to be a poisonous frog (Kristin Chenoweth) who is unaccountably in love with him. The film peaks early when she sings an inspired mock-ballad about how she can’t even touch him. Another sudden fit of creativity comes later via a montage concerning talent show auditions for jungle critters, some of whom become food for other critters. These are but the few times “Rio 2” feels genuinely and suddenly desperate to entertain, not desperate to rake in bucks.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

Movies

Review: Bickering family dramedy 'This is Where I…

A talented cast sits Shiva in the bickering family dramedy "This is Where I Leave You," although it's more sap than yuks.

Movies

Review: Desert-walking movie 'Tracks' would be better as…

Mia Wasikowska walks 1700 miles across Australia's deserts in "Tracks," in a story that defies triumph-of-the-spirit cliches but gets some of them anyway.

NFL

J.J. Watt poses unique challenges to struggling Giants…

Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the league, is the leader of a surprising Texans (2-0) team that has already matched last season’s win total.

NFL

Eric Decker 'unlikely to play' against Bears: Source

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker's status for Monday night’s game against the Bears is in doubt after he missed practice again Wednesday.

NFL

Preston Parker, not Odell Beckham, will replace Jerrel…

Tom Coughlin noted the next man up will be unheralded veteran Preston Parker.

NFL

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…