Rio 2 Review


Voice Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg as Blu
Anne Hathaway as Jewel
Jemaine Clement as Nigel
Kristin Chenoweth as Gabi
George Lopez as Rafael
Leslie Mann as Linda
Rodrigo Santoro as Tulio
Bruno Mars as Roberto
Jamie Foxx as Nico
Will i Am as Pedro
Tracy Morgan as Luiz
Andy Garcia as Eduardo
Miguel Ferrer as Big Boss
Pierce Gagnon as Tiago
Rachel Crow as Carla
Rita Moreno as Aunt Mimi
Philip Lawrence as Felipe
Jeffrey Garcia as Spoonbill / Perl
Bebel Gilberto as Eva
Amy Heidemann as Rapping Sloth
Jim Conroy as Capoeira Turtle
Sergio Mendes as Street Vendor

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

The last of the blue macaws, Blu and Jewel (Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway) have settled down in Rio with their three kids, but when Blu’s human friends, bird experts Tulio and Linda (Rodrigo Santoro, Leslie Mann), discover a large group of blue macaws in the Amazon rainforest, they all travel there to investigate and stop a logging company from destroying the macaw’s sacred home.

Now that computer animated family movies are no longer the rarity they once were, costing less money and time to make, it’s become even harder to offer anything new or original that sets itself apart from the pack. Blue Sky Studios’ 2011 musical adventure “Rio” found itself a setting that allowed for a fun and spirited movie about talking birds that didn’t seem like a knock-off of Disney’s “South of the Border” movies, but also never offered anything that immediately screamed that it needed a sequel? except that it turned a profit.

With that in mind, we’re back in Rio de Janeiro with the somewhat familiar cast of talking animals kicking things off with a musical number that allows us the first hint that the songs in “Rio 2” may have come before the actual story this time around. That’s all fine and dandy?most adults will probably have forgotten what they liked or didn’t like about the first movie anyway?but it makes it obvious there wasn’t much more that could be done with the characters at least not in Saldanha’s glorified postcard version of Rio, which is almost offensive in the way it simplifies the city with its notable landmarks and the myth that Brazilians are celebrating Carnival all year round.

Much of the story doesn’t even take place in Rio, instead moving to the Amazon rainforest where Blu and Jewel’s human pals Linda and Tulio have found more blue macaws. Blu and Jewel’s brood have become too accustomed to the conveniences of human technology?a concept that opens so many questions that anyone watching a movie about talking birds need not have?so Jewel feels a family trip to the Amazon will help them get back to being birds.

Normally, seeing characters from a movie you enjoyed back on screen brings a feeling of happy familiarity, but that’s rarely present in “Rio 2,” since it feels like an unnecessary sequel from the very opening number. This is especially the case because it seems like Eisenberg and Hathway, both of whom have gone onto bigger things, are going through the motions that come with contractual obligations. Eisenberg mainly does a lot of yelling as Blu is thrown from one situation trying to adjust to life in the wild, and as much as he tries to make the most of it, Eisenberg should never ever EVER be allowed to sing again, even if it’s for the one line he meekly belts out in the opener.

The first movie already had far too many characters to keep track of, but bringing them all back and figuring out things for them to do just makes “Rio 2” a mess, taking far too long for anything even remotely entertaining to happen. Oddly, that comes in the form of the movie’s most pointless characters, the rapping birds voiced by Jamie Foxx and, who mostly pop up as running commentary. They eventually decide to hold auditions for their Carnival show among the denizens of the rainforest leading to a funny montage that pokes fun at competitive singing shows. In this case, most of the talent can barely survive against the dangers of the jungle.

The best thing going for the movie is once again Jemaine Clement’s hawk Nigel, returning with a vengeance having lost his ability to fly at the end of the first movie. He’s joined by an anteater stooge and an amorous and poisonous frog voiced by Kristin Chenoweth?and yes, of course, she’s going to sing a song, a perfect example of how songs are shoehorned into the movie in an awkward way that feels as forced as the plot.

But honestly, what can you expect when filmmakers cast the likes of pop singer Bruno Mars in a key role as a potential competitor for Jewel’s affections? (Yes, he sings, too.) The other new character of note is a militaristic macaw, Jewel’s long-lost father, voiced by Andy Garcia, who doesn’t approve of Blu’s penchant for human ways – Garcia’s contribution to the later musical numbers is almost as embarrassing as Eisenberg’s one sung line at the beginning. Having Blu and Jewel as parents also means you have a bunch of annoying kids in the movie who add very little to the story.

Things do pick up by the end, leading to a battle between the animals of the rainforest with the loggers who are endangering their home, but there really isn’t anywhere else for the movie to go by that point. Instead of bothering with the loggers, the filmmakers just needed to give more screen time to Nigel, because Clement steals the movie and there’s little of interest when he’s not on screen.

The Bottom Line:
Mostly uninspired and rarely even remotely entertaining, you’d be better off sticking with the original Rio? and by that, we mean the one in Brazil.