The movie industry is funny, isn’t it? I mean honestly, can you name any other job market in which your last body of work can be so non-reflective of your current one. Take for example Anne Hathaway, whom Morgan Freeman referred to as “the naked girl from Love and Other Drugs.” Who would have imagined that the latest Oscar hostess’ follow up to the full frontal, anti-love film would be as Jewel, the spunky meets stand-offish macaw in Rio. The best comparison I can gather would be Diamond, the down on her luck college graduate turned stripper getting her life together to become your kid’s preschool teacher. People would make a run at the school, pitchforks and burning stakes in hand. Yet, in Hollywood it is business as usual.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not really a complaint. It is a proven formula that seems to work. It is because of this quirk that Rio has managed to assemble a stellar cast of actors, actresses, comedians and musicians to compliment its charming story of growth. On the surface, the film’s subject matter will be loved by kids. The film starts with a caged Blu, played by Oscar Nominated Jesse Eisenberg falling out of a moving van into the snowy abyss of Minnesota. Linda, voiced by Leslie Mann finds the abandoned bird and promises him that she will always take care of him. From that moment forward they share a bond that can only be described as friendship. They share routines, conversations and secret hand shakes. Blu brings a very understated sense of humor to the film through his human mannerisms. With very simple acts (like pretending to be a car alarm, or blowing up the bro-pound) Blu buries his charm into the viewer’s heart. His character is as lovable as any I have ever seen in cartoon form.
As the film progresses it is discovered that Blu is the last remaining male macaw. He will need to return to Brazil where he will be exposed to Pearl for breeding purposes. However, due to the value of the last two macaws on Earth, the birds are stolen to be sold on the black market. The remainder of the film shifts from Blu’s attempts to find Linda, Linda’s desire to find Blu and Blu and Jewel’s tailspin into love. Along the way, a large cast of characters assist in these themes voiced by the an incredible ensemble of Will I Am, Jamie Foxx, Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, George Lopez and Tracy Morgan. Helping Blu and Jewel make their way through the chaos of Carnival and overcome the obstacle of Blu’s inability to fly, this gang runs head long into danger while managing to sing and joke along the way. Expect your kids to sit glued to the screen, holding their breath in anticipation of what is yet to come in this great story. I was amazed by the manner in which the kids in my theater silently sat, devoured and were engaged by the film.
On a deeper level, which will speak mainly to adults, I found some of the hidden messages of the film a little discouraging. The film’s depiction of Rio is less than flattering. The majority of the characters shown in the picture are of the criminal element, homeless or shady. The few exceptions of this come as “working class” individuals obsessed with the party to be in Carnival. The areas of Rio pictured are again of the less than desirable areas of town. Tin-covered shacks and makeshift rooftop homeless shelters flood the screen, subconsciously subjecting our youth to an educational lesson about Brazil that seems less than factual and somewhat volatile. While these stereotypes are certainly not enough to ruin the rarity of a well put together children’s film (see my review of Alpha and Omega), it certainly might be enough to warrant a home study and conversation with your impressionable kids.
Overall however, I not only loved this film, I would advise all parents to take their kids to see it. In a world where kids are blasted with mediocre after mediocre attempt to exploit their love of film, Rio is a well thought out gem of a movie. While the 3D version of the film isn’t awful, I’d suggest skipping the cost and simply seeing the film in the normal 2D format, as the 3D adds very little to the film. Otherwise, I have no complaints.
I give Rio 5 “Christ the Redeemer Statues” out of 5
by Joshua Hammond