FilmApril 21, 2011 at 3:55 am

Review: Rio

Animated flick never quite takes flight

Just in time for warm weather comes an animated film set in beautiful South America. And while Rio may be devoid of substance, that doesn’t make the movie bad. Instead, the movie is cinematic candy: it’s colorful, sweet, predictable… and it leaves you hungry an hour later.

After bring kidnapped from his native Rio de Janiero and brought to Minnesota to live as a pet, Blu (Eisenberg) is rescued by the human Linda (Leslie Mann). They grow up together, becoming best friends. Their quiet life is interrupted when an ornithologist convinces them to head to Rio so Blu can mate with Jewel (Hathaway), as they are the last of their species. A group of bird smugglers has other plans. When Blu and Jewel are kidnapped, they must escape their persistent captors and find Linda with the help of a large cast of supporting characters.

The most frustrating about Rio is that it represents so much wasted opportunity. The particularly inspired casting of Jemaine Clement as an antagonistic avian and Tracy Morgan as a bulldog version of himself never pay off — because they aren’t given enough opportunity to do so. Clement’s witty rap song in his first appearance, for example, is the height of his character’s humor, rather than an introduction to it. Morgan, meanwhile is boringly stupid.

Meanwhile, director-screenwriter Carlos Saldanha treats audiences to the preposterous ornithologist squawking obnoxiously on at least three separate occasions. It’s three times too many. Given the laziness of adding “[makes loud bird noises]” into the script rather than writing clever gags and the fairly uninspired plot, it’s obvious that Saldanha could have used some help.

Despite the shortcomings of its script, Rio is worth seeing for its visual splendor. The movie is always pleasant to look at due to vibrantly animated wildlife and spectacular animated landscapes. The cinematography is sweeping and exciting, often employing shaky Handi-cam-style work during chase scenes.  With its low intelligence quotient and its high fun quotient, Rio is a summer movie that flew south a bit early.

Directed by: Carlos Saldanha
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jemaine Clement
Rated G, 96 min.

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