In Rio, nerd actor du jour Jesse Eisenberg plays, what else, a nerdy birdie—a domesticated macaw—from small-town Minnesota named Blu. He’s never learned to fly, but enjoys a happy and healthy life with his owner and BFF Linda (Leslie Mann). When they discover the last remaining female blue macaw (voice of Anne Hathaway) in the world lives in Rio de Janeiro, they make the journey to find her, but their trip doesn’t go as planned.
Richard: Mark, I have to get the 800-pound elephant—or in this case, the big blue bird—out of the way right away. Let me say that Rio has an OK story and fine animation but it really lacks the depth of a Pixar film. Maybe I’m spoiled, but when I watch animated movies, whether they are Dreamworks, or, like this one, from Fox, I can’t help but think, “What would the wizards at Pixar have done with this story?”
MB: Richard, I agree. Pixar is the gold standard of animated films, but sometimes, you just have to go for the bronze. Or as Stephen Stills once sang, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” I found there were a lot of things to enjoy about the movie, even if it wasn’t Pixar perfect. Let’s start with the look and setting: ravishing colour palette and exotic location.
RC: Don`t get me wrong, Rio is perfectly serviceable. It`s colourful and filled with nice little touches like a little bird who warms himself against a traffic light, flitting back-and-forth between the red and green lights, in snowy Minnesota, but even with all the good stuff it isn`t particularly memorable. It`ll keep the little ones occupied in the theatre—although very little kids may find some of the action a bit too intense—and has some good messages, but there`s no real sticky content here.
MB: Yes, the story is weak, and 15 minutes too long. But I found the movie came alive during the three musical numbers, and if there only had been more, a full-blown musical, the movie might have been a near classic. But there were nice moments of visual wit, and I appreciated Jesse Eisenberg’s attempts at Woody Allen line readings. Nigel, the avian villain, is good, as is Tracy Morgan’s drooly bulldog. Could have used more of him.
RC: I agree. The movie is just off by 20 per cent. I wasn’t much taken with the voice work from the leads but will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Morgan and particularly Jemaine Clement are great. When their characters are on screen the movie comes alive, when they’re not, it doesn’t really take flight.
MB: And although it is a sanitized version of Rio de Janeiro presented in the film, I was pleased to see some references to street urchins, favelas, pickpockets and bad Brazilian steakhouses as part of the movie.