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


Rock legend Neil Young files for divorce after…

The legendary Canadian rocker Neil Young has filed for divorce from his wife of 36 years.


FDNY debuts new fire simulator for blazes at…

The New York City Fire Department christened its newest, state-of-the-art, custom-built simulator at its training academy on Randall's Island Tuesday.


Bronx cop saves baby who stopped breathing

A Bronx police officer is credited with saving the life of a 2-month-old baby who stopped breathing Tuesday morning. Police Officer Johnny Castillo, 38, was…


Brewer celebrates Women's Equality Day with voter pledge

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer celebrated Women’s Equality Day Tuesday by pledging to register at least five women voters before the Oct. 10 deadline. Brewer…


Review: 'The Last of Robin Hood' is a…

Dakota Fanning plays Errol Flynn's (Kevin Kline) teenage gal pal in "The Last of Robin Hood," which takes a scandal and makes it dully empathetic.


Review: The uneven 'Life of Crime' mostly gets…

Elmore Leonard's "The Switch" becomes the new indie crime dramedy "Life of Crime," with Jennifer Aniston as a kidnapped woman whose husband won't pay up.


Review: Pierce Brosnan gets a cut-rate Bond knockoff…

Pierce Brosnan tries to reclaim his glory days with the spy thriller "The November Man" but instead gets a sad DTV-style ripoff with lame action.


Tiesto headlines Made in America

Electronic music legend Tiesto is ready to get in touch with his inner Rocky at the Jay Z-curated Budweiser Made in America festival this weekend…


When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.


Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.


Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.


MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at top, Nationals climb


Lure your baby to sleep with Maroon 5…

These new renditions of "Moves Like Jagger" and "Payphone" are Maroon 5 like you've never heard them before.


Who is having the most orgasms?

  Single lesbians report having orgasms more often than heterosexual women but both gay and straight men still come out on top of the climax…


Jonathan Adler shares his tips for a great…

Jonathan Adler took a break from boogie boarding at his beach house to tell us how to keep that Labor Day party festive.


Most popular Labor Day weekend destinations released its Top 20 destinations for the end of summer, including Labor Day weekend. If you’re heading to any of these spots, expect a…