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


Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking


K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.


Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.


Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.


Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.


Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…


Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.


Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.


2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…


Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.


Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.


Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.


Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.