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


Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.


VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.


New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.


Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…


Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.


MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.


James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…


Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.


Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.


Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…


Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400


This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…


Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…


Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…


Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…