Directed by Carlos Saldanha
Starring Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Chenoweth, Andy Garcia, Bruno Mars, Jamie Foxx, Will I. Am, Leslie Mann
Combine one part fish out of water story, with one part kid’s musical, and add a dash of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, and you’ve got Rio 2, a sequel to… what else, but Rio. We pick up where we left off with Blu and Jewel, the last two Blue Macaws in the world and their three Blue Macaw kids. For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE kids movies. I grew up on Disney and live for cartoons. That being said, I’m not a Disney snob. Back in the day, Don Bluth made amazing films including An American Tail and Anastasia. But it does take a very special film to play in the same arena as Disney. Did Rio 2 pass the test?
We start in Rio, Brazil, with our heroes Blu (Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway) ringing in the New Year with their three kids. Everyone is singing and dancing to a Janelle Monae original song for the film. Here comes my first complaint. I LOVE the musical talent featured in this film. Holy MOLEY guacamoley, Rio 2 has nearly every artist that I love creating and singing for this film, but sadly, the music falls short. It reminds me of how I felt after seeing Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. I was so excited since it was going to be a jazz inspired soundtrack led by the ever so talented Anika Noni Rose, but sadly, that soundtrack fell flat as well. Anyways, everything LOOKS spectacular in the opening sequence. We also see all of the old characters from the original film including the Macaw’s friends voiced by Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, and George Lopez.
Next scene, we see that the family has become a little too domesticated in their Rio home eating pancakes, listening to IPods, and watching TV. This makes Blu happy, as he is neurotically protecting his family and his species from extinction (They are the last Blue Macaws on the planet). Jewel is quite frustrated, as she spent most of her life in the wild and has only recently become domesticated. They hear that Blu’s old human companion, Linda (Mann), has found some more Blue Macaws in the Amazon rainforest. They then decide (much to Blu’s discontent) to head over to the Amazon to help Linda and show the kids their wild roots.
The pack starts flying towards the Amazon, and I must say that the animation for this film is spectacular- literally breath-taking. The animators did an amazing job of capturing the bright colors and spectacular sights that Brazil has to offer. As they fly, we see that Nigel (Clement from Flight of the Concords), Jewel and Blu’s arch-nemesis from the original film, is actually alive and well, but now cannot fly. Still overly dramatic (and ridiculously hilarious as ever), he teams up with a very hungry anteater and Gabi, a poisonous dart frog voiced by one of my favorites, Kristen Chenoweth. THESE TWO! These two are honestly the best part of the film, and I could have an entire film, just with these two characters. Clement plays Nigel so deliciously evil, but with a bumbling twist that almost makes him a cross between Shakespeare’s Richard the Third and Dr. Doofensmirtz from Phineas and Ferb. And Chenoweth’s Gabi is like her character from Pushing Daisies, where she is just so hopelessly smitten with a character who will never love her, mixed with, again a loving bumbling villain… like a LeFou, from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The duet that these two sing, “Poisonous Love,” is the only original song in this film that I think is passible.
Nigel is bent on revenge and wants to kill Jewel, Blu, and their entire family. But wait, the plot thickens. There is a worse villain afoot, a human. “Big Boss,” voiced by Miguel Ferrer, is the leader of a group of illegal loggers. He plans to take out as much of the Amazon forest, as he can, without getting caught. But back to our heroes, Jewell, Blu, and their clan find the flock of Blue Macaws, and they have been hiding in a sort of hidden paradise. And joy of joys, this is actually Jewell’s old family! She finds her very stern father (Garcia), her sister and auntie, and her childhood “friend” (wink wink nudge nudge), Roberto (Mars). I was so excited, yet scared to see how Mars would fare acting in this film. Bruno Mars is one of my favorite artists right now; he’s like Prince and Elvis had some sort of sexy little love child. But I found anytime that he wasn’t singing, laughable… and not in a good way. will.i.am, is an amazing musician, but I can’t wait to see him act in a non-animated film, because I love his portrayal of Pedro. It’s simple, sweet, fun, and never forced. Sadly, Mars’s Roberto is INCREDIBLY forced… remember Beyonce in The Fighting Temptations with Cuba Gooding, Jr.? Yeah… he’s THAT bad.
So now, Blu and Jewell’s family have two things working against them, the comical pursuit of Nigel and his henchmen, and “Big Boss” and their illegal logging activity that might ruin their natural habitat… not to mention that Blu is having a difficult time acclimating to the Amazon jungle that Jewell now wants to call home. Overall, I found this film to be a fun watch. Kids are gonna LOVE it. It’s bright, colorful, and funny. Adults will like it as well, but the music is just not up to par. I really wish that they would have brought in a Broadway musical composer and not a bunch of Pop and Latin artists just by themselves. I am all for making a pop score, and I am certainly all for keeping true to the music of Brazil, but if you are going to make music that furthers a story, you need to bring in someone who knows how to do that. I also wish that there would have been less Bruno Mars and more Chenoweth and Clement. But other than that, a fun little watch with spectacular animation.
Really breathtaking. Really. The Blu Ray comes in High Definition, in which is the only format that this film needs to be watched. Between the scenes of Rio and the beauty of the Amazon rainforest, you see that these animators put a lot of heart, soul, and hours into making this film. I have no complaints here.
Nice audio… just nice. Don’t get me wrong. Everything sounds good- the vocal performances are spot on most of the time and the DTS-HD audio sounds amazing. I just still have problems with the music. The music felt lackluster compared to the rest of the spectacular movie, and again, I love that they brought in actual Latin artists and the best of the best pop artists to write the songs, but when you do an animated musical of this caliber, you need to bring in an actual musical composer to at least get the bones of the music down, otherwise it’s going to be a mess. But that’s just this musical nerd’s humble opinion.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging is beautiful, bright, and colorful. It’s everything that a children’s Blu-Ray cover should be. The bonus features are the real treat, though. One, you get a Rio recap, for those of you who didn’t get to see the first one… like myself. It was nice to be able to at least familiarize myself with some of the characters before diving into the second one. You also get a deleted scene (with Nigel and Gabi- YAY!), a short about the local sounds of Brazil, some behind the scenes footage with the animators, and a short about all of the musical talents in Rio 2. This includes behind the scenes footage with Hathaway, Monae, will.i.am, Foxx, Mars, Chenoweth, Clement… ANYONE who was singing in this film. By far, my favorite feature. With this package you also get a standard DVD and Digital Download for your Tablet, Phone, etc, 2 free songs from the soundtrack, and (are you ready Kiddos?) 15 FREE exclusive levels of Angry Birds Rio!!! I never played Angry Birds Rio, but I know that any of my students would do ANYTHING for that game! Seriously, it’s like crack for them. A really good package for the whole family.
Overall (Not an Average)
This was a fun little watch. It’s not going to be one of my new favorites, but a fun little watch. And it’s not a mind numbing children’s movie. It’s something that the whole family can watch and enjoy. I think that the visuals are great, and the entire package of the Blu Ray is well worth the buy… I just wish that the music had been better.